The past few weeks have been engrossed with vine work here at the vineyard. Our team has been preparing for juicing—literally pulling the juice from the grape (we'll discuss that more in next weeks blog)—all summer. We thought that this week we would let you in on a few techniques that help us keep control of our crops, and what it takes to gather enough wine to keep our customers satisfied and coming back all year round!
Firstly, pest control one of the most important aspects of growing full vines of grapes. 2017 was a terrible year for most Nutmeggers with the overwhelming amount of Gypsy Moths that descended after the mild winter. As we only use organic methods of catching and trapping, to avoid pesticides, we used the duct tape method to remove as much of the issue as possible. Later in the season, birds become the main issue. They pick and peck at the bunches, snacking to their delight. While we're sure that they are enjoying themselves, it means that to save our plants, we must erect our yearly netting over the vines. The netting isn't enough to rid sunlight, or stop the on-site bees from getting to the plants, but they are small enough to keep the birds out. An all natural solution to an unsavory problem.
Next is limiting yield. This is a task that takes the full summer. It's the act of stripping any bad or unnecessary leaves, grapes, or plumage that would otherwise put a strangle or unwelcome stress on the better grapes. It may seem counterintuitive: taking full bunches of grapes out of the harvest, to have less grapes. However, what that process does is allow the better bunches to fully develop and ripen to a more concentrated flavor. While not ideal for grape farmers, it is an amazing help for wineries. Our wines have better, sweeter juices, and its directly related to the amount of leaves and other products that the vine has to take care of.
Imagine this: a nurse has a full hospital of patients to take care of. The resources, time and energy, are expended just trying to get to every patient. They are tending to the worst patients first, and the better patients last. This means the better patients, or the best bunches in our case, are left untended by the vine itself. If we strip the plants of the unnecessary leaves and bunches, it would be like having one nurse for every patient, allowing the perfect amount of attention to be given to each issue and bringing the patient to full health before being able to leave.
Lastly, we had to check ripeness and readiness of the grapes. There are two methods to checking the readiness, first, the old method: taste testing. Just popping a grape in your mouth and checking the sweetness can tell you so many things about the grape and how its flavors might be portrayed in the bottle. The other, more scientifically accurate way, is the Brix test. The Brix test measures the sugar content with a refractometer; you smear some of the berries juice onto the lens and it will measure in the light how many sugar molecules per millimeter. It gives a numeric value, which is roughly the percentage yield of sugar.
Some of these are painstaking daily tasks that ensure our readiness for the big day, while others, thankfully are easier on the back and legs. Our winemaker, Ruaan, does love his trips out to the vines for tasting.
Don't forget that we are open all year round, and while you can't go up into the fields, if you do wish to stay updated on the work that we're doing, please feel free to stop buy the winery to check in on everything. We will also be open late nights on Fridays in November for our Indoor UnWined series, with a different line up and unique experiences all month (with no rain outs!). Just keep in mind that space inside is tight, so buy your tickets early!
Photography by: Daniel S. Clesowich Photography