Sunday, May 21, 2017

New vineyard underway


Well the older vines are thriving with lots of tiny flower bunches, the chardonnay test vines are alive and well, and the new solaris vines are all waking up. This is exciting. Much better than watching grass grow.

New chardonnays

Rondo 2-yo

And guess who's back?  Donkeys!

Solaris 2-yo


Rondo 2-yo


Monday, May 15, 2017

They're alive!

Checking on the new vines
Alex pointing out the flower buds



Our vines are sprouting. The two-year old vines are loaded with little clusters of flower buds along with their leaflets and tendrils. This weather has prompted everything to come to life. It's so encouraging to see. Even the little rondo that didn't do much last year has come to life.

The newly planted chardonnay test vines and solaris expansion vines are sprouting, too. It has been an extraordinary month with very little (no) rain and we have not been watering the vineyard. We have been watering the other gardens, vegetable and flower, daily for the past week. Fortunately, last night, the drought was relived and we are to get plenty of rain today. Let's hope it's enough.

Year 3 solaris

Chardonnay test vines
Can't really see the new vines from this distance yet. 

Three-year-old Rondo

Amazing display of Hawthorne blooms this year


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Spring is sprung

Solaris 3-yo vines

Rondo just waking up

New chardonnay, freshly planted and budding

The vineyard, freshly strimmed

There is so much to be done, and Alex has done half of the major work already. Half the new vines have been dug in. Unfortunately, I cant help much as I have a pinched nerve in my hand causing excruciating pain. The rain has ceased and we have dry but cooler than normal weather. Unfortunately, we also have too many things happening at once: book launches, health issues, holidays, volunteer commitments, lectures, incessant travel. We have work to do on the boat on the garden, on ourselves. Have we bitten off more than we can chew? (What a funny expression!)

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Building a vineyard

Earlier this week in Daria's Vineyard

Alex has been very busy planting fence posts in the field. He bought a trailer load on Monday and by Friday he had a good number of them planted. That's the hardest part of creating a vineyard. He is working very hard while the vines sit in clumps in the ground awaiting their day in the sun. 

The soil is curious. It has a clay in it that almost feels sandy. We really should have it analyzed to tell us what it is. But our philosophy is that if grapes love poor soil, then these grapes are sure to get it. Fortunately for Alex, the ground is quite soft now and the light NW winds are cooling us off as we work. 

I've been weeding and pruning the vegetable garden. 

Progress made by Friday

New style design is much superior to prior year's
Chardonnay grapes are in.


Alex noticed that the top wire from
last year was fine but the bottom
wires were rusting. So he's now grounding
all the wire trellises. 
Tools of the trade - new chardonnay plant

Veins of clay visible
Curious soil

The new solaris vines





Thursday, April 6, 2017

Grape vines have arrived

Bare rooted vines have arrived just as Alex was building the new fence around the field area we set aside for the chardonnay vines. So he quickly planted the chardonnay and started digging in fence posts for the rest, back breaking work. Luckily, he bought the fence posts just the day before yesterday.

The new vines are solaris like the first four we planted experimentally. They've done reasonably well. Alex thinks he had ordered 25 vines, but two bundles of 25 arrived. When we checked the order, we realized he had ordered the 50. That's a lot of holes to dig.

We will now be officially a vineyard with 54 solaris vines, 5 chardonnay and 6 reds. They are Vitis solaris FR60 on SO4 rootstock, clone 31 Op. Full details below.




Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Floods and vineyards


When it's climate change and not global warming, what we face is extremes of nature not a gradual shift. This year exemplified how unpredictable the climate has become. After years of drought, vintners in California are treading water wondering what will happen to this years' crop. The Russian River Valley flooded under feet of water and more rain was on the way. Luckily the vines were dormant.

But it wasn't just in California and Nevada that rain wreaked havoc. Australia's Swan Valley and the south of France and Italy experienced periods of heavy downpours and flooding in 2016. And it's become a recurring nightmare.

Fortunately, that's one thing we are not likely to have to worry about as our vineyard is on a nicely sloping hill. All the water runs down to the sea, but we have to ensure that the topsoil doesn't go with it. That's why we have left the grass around the vines. Right or wrong, it's our current choice.


Saturday, March 25, 2017

The wines of Lombardy

Terraced vineyards in Lombardy


Moving a bit too fast to photograph the vineyards en route.
We just got back from Italy, skiing in the Alpine resort of Livigno. It's a 4-hour trip from Milan's airport. Along the way, we saw grapes being grown on the tiniest of plots, and terraced up the steep hills. They grow the grapes vertically, tied to individual sticks until the vines are strong enough to stand up on their own. That's a recommended technique for Chardonnay which keeps air passing through thereby reducing mold so, was interesting to see. We saw a sign up on the hill with "Inferno" written on it and learned later that it is one of the typical wines of the region, and the first we were able to sample.
Lake Como on a hazy winter's day
Lombardy’s most popular mountain destination is Valtellina. Bordering with Lake Como in the south and with Switzerland in the north, Valtellina extends for 200 kilometers in a varied landscape beginning at an altitude of 200m, reaching an height of 4000m at Bernina. The sun-bathed valley floor is cultivated with apples, replaced by woods and terraced vineyards as you ascend. Here the Nebbiolo grapes produce excellent red wines. The interesting history of winemaking here dates back to before Roman times when the Etruscans and Ligurians produced wines. It is thought that the Nebbiolo grape was introduced to the region by the Benedictine Monks in the early Middle Ages. .

Friday, March 24, 2017

The vines are awakening

It's just two days into Spring and the buds are getting robust. The white vines are slightly behind the red ones in development. Now's the time to keep a close eye on their development.


Red grape vine budding strongly

White grape vine just beginning

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Chardonnay vines have arrived


I know, I know, they don't look like much. Well they aren't really. I only bought five plants as an experiment. Everyone says they won't work here, but someone has said that for every thing that anyone has ever attempted for the first time. Climate change is accelerating faster than anyone thought, so maybe I am right. Maybe not.

Now why would I want chardonnay when some people preach ABC - anything but chardonnay? Because chardonnay is a grape varietal with an identity crisis. Developing a fine chardonnay in your backyard has to do with both where its grown and how it is made. I am thinking Chablis, the fine French vintage, not Gallo who tainted chablis as serious white plonk.

We have clay soil as does the Chablis region of France. Chablis is made from 100% chardonnay grapes gown in clay soil. The Chardonnay varietal is expressive as a rainbow or generic as a blank label. She can be both a rock star and a street hawker, a prima ballerina and a cheap harlot. Why does Chardonnay have this split personality? Because she takes on the characteristics of the soil, the conditions and the maker more so than any other varietal.

Can I make a great Chablis?  I won't know until I try. Anyway, it will be years before my chardonnay vines let me do that.

For now, I'm learning what I can about how to get started.

Chardonnay bare root grapevines clone D258 Duft on SO4 31 Op rootstocks @ €5 each. €33.45 w/P/P

What it may look like one day. 
Source of grapevines: Grape Expectations, 29 Carrickmount Ave, Rathfarnham, Dublin 14, Ireland 
Phone 00353 86 8878047

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Expansion

We just ordered 50 vines (Solaris SO4) @2.60 ea from Derek Pritchard of Winegrowers Supplies in Somerset England.  They will be shipped in early April. We wanted to buy some chardonnay vines to test but he wouldn't sell us any saying they were too late ripening for our area. Curious that someone would refuse to sell us something we wanted to try. We'll get them from another grower.

Now that we've had 4 vines to experiment with, hopefully we'll make fewer mistakes with the next batch. This is exciting.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Finally managed to prune and train

Last week, we had a spell of beautiful weather after several days of strong frost.  As it's already February and things are starting to bud, I thought it was time to take the plunge ad prune. I documented my work by taking one photo of each vine so I can compare this year's growth to Next year's. Here we are.

Red grape vines (Rondo) 

The red grape vines were variable in their take. Two did well, two did poorly and one is mediocre.


Sunday, January 8, 2017

Wicklow Wines on RTE radio

Nice interview with Wicklow Wines, who are making fruit wines in Ireland. They started with strawberry, blackberry and elderberry, all of which grow naturally here. They don't make it with water the old wives traditional way, they press the fruit like grapes. Pam and Brett launched their limited edition strawberry wine at Bloom 2016, to good reviews. From meadow to glass, Móinéir wines reflect the unique characteristics of the Irish countryside... the terroir concept moves to Ireland.


Listen to the interview here:  http://rte.ie/r.html?rii=b9_21112161_1523_07-01-2017_

Here is their website. https://www.wicklowwaywines.ie/

Where to buy or try.  Have to remember to buy a bottle at McCambridge's in Galway. Or we can go to Pantry & Corkscrew in Westport and try a glass there. Interesting that it's being carried by Aniar. JP must like it = quite an endorsement.