Friday, January 12, 2018

Daria's Vineyard

I painted a sign for our vineyard the year we planted our first grapevines. It helps us remember when we established the place. I think I did a pretty nice job on the signage. Now we need to design some logos and establish names for the wines and design labels for the bottles. Am I getting ahead of myself?

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Licenses & fees

We're not ready to make wines yet, but the time may come this year when we may actually have a crop of grapes to try fermentation. We decided that if we didn't succeed in making wine, we'd go the distillation route to an eau de vie or vodka. So I have begun my research into what it would take.

It is illegal to distill for home use in Ireland. It is illegal to distill without a licence regardless of whether you intend to sell it or not. Plain and simple. In several other countries you apparently can but not in Ireland. Unless you use brewing vodka kits, with no distillation. There are robust yeasts that can get quite high alcohol concentration without distillation. These are just neutral wines which are treated with carbon to reduce smell and taste. Alcohol can be tax relieved in the case of wine, beer or other fermented beverage produced at home for personal use and not for sale, but it must be authorized by Revenue.

To distill for public consumption, one must apply to Revenue for a license. One must also prove that secure premises and food preparation safety measures are in place. A brewer's licence reportedly costs €500 per anum, it's renewable every September and is obtained from the Revenue. To obtain a brewer's licence you must pay a bond of 50% of the duty you expect to pay in the year. This works out at about 12c per 500 ml of 4.5% beer based on ABV. So fermentation is the way to go.

Irish Whiskey and Poteen have Geographical Indication (GI) like Appelation Controllee in France. One must apply to Revenue to secure Geographical Indication for Irish products. Revenue must verify every stage of the process. Clare Island Salmon, Connemara Hill Lamb and Waterford Blaa also have the GI designation.

I don't think we'll have to worry about GI just yet. But in reading about vodkas in an excellent interview with the Chase family, I realized there is only one made from grapes, Ciroc, which we just recently tried. Maybe there's something to this after all.

And another thing I realised is that it takes an awful lot of potatoes to make one bottle of vodka. That answers the question of why potato farmers didn't just switch to vodka when people stopped eating so many spuds in Ireland. I'm glad we chose grapes. At least so far.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Clearing the grass

Croagh Patrick, the Holy Mountain
The weather was beautiful today so we took a walk to the summit of our land to see the views, plant a few more trees and enjoy the St. Stephen's Day holiday. The views were stunning but the land is very wet. The trees we have been planting out on about 1/3 of our ten acres are doing very nicely. The leader species - birch, willow, and alder - are growing vigorously. The ash and sycamores are coming along nicely too, but at a slower pace.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Pruning the grapevines

What a mess!

The job was daunting. We'd been gone most of the summer sailing, which isn't prudent when you are trying to start a vineyard, but hey it's all an adventure isn't it? Meanwhile the weather had been mild and moist until last week when we finally had a cold snap. Frost, sleet, hail and snow finally put the vines to sleep and they dropped their leaves so we could see the structure of the vines themselves. And what we saw was not pretty. I kept going up there and coming back down without having done a thing.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

LA region fires affect vineyards

First it was the northern wine country; now the Skirball fires are ripping through the outskirts of Los Angeles. Almost 200 homes have been destroyed by the fires which remain out of control. About 200,000 people have been told to evacuate. Loss of power is reported at more than 250,000 homes in Ventura County. The San Diego Freeway was closed. Fueled by hot Santa Ana winds, it is unusual that a wildfire like this has ripped through in December. A state of emergency has been declared yet again.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Fall has finally arrived in the vineyard

Fall arrived, if only for one day. Today it's back to warm and wet but yesterday it was cool, crisp, and sunny with frost overnight. The red vines have dropped their leaves but the white vines and hanging on. The grass and weeds have control. Next have to get out there with a shovel and dig out the docks. Then Alex will have to strim. Finally we will go in and select out the main shoots and prune away the rest. Then Alex can build the overhead trellis system we'll be adopting from Spain. Trying to be patient.
Red vines have dropped most of their leaves
White vines hanging on to leaves