Thursday, November 17, 2011

November meeting at Foxhill Meadery

Jason was kind enough to host our November meeting at his place in the tasting room.  You can see that this room is not only for tasting but also for fermenting the Mead that he makes.  Those are tanks that hold over a hundred gallons of mead. 
In this picture you can see the back of Alan, Pete sitting across the table, Chuck behind Alan, and our host, Jason.

From right to left, Jennifer and Mark, two professionals who really know a thing or two about wine making;  Bob Bowles with the camera and Chuck next to Bob.  This table is loaded with wine experts.  In the center of the table sits a bottle of Mead.  Jason was more than generous, opening 6 bottles of his different meads for us to sample.

Cynthia sitting next to a bottle of Petit Manseng that Alan brought along for sampling

A shot of Jason, probably wondering what in the world he was thinking when he told us we could come over.

some of Jason's adjustable volume stainless steel tanks.  The tops are adjustable vertically and seal against the sides of the tanks using a pneumatic gasket.

This was a great meeting.  I for one learned a lot about the fermentation business in general and certainly appreciate Jason taking the time to have us over.
For some really excellent Mead, check out Jason's website at  .  Jason makes at least six very tasty meads that can be found locally at wine stores in the Asheville area.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The September Meeting (held in October)

Sitting down at Cynthia Yancey's place.  Left to right are Bob Bowles ( of Asheville wine and food ) Cynthia, Jeannie and Chuck Blethen, and Barbara Kinnaird.
Cynthia made some excellent winter squash soup and that bottle of wine was a blend of blackberry and Norton grape.  It was very young, summer 2011 vintage, but I thought quite drinkable (he said in a self serving way)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

pick the grapes

Lots of FBV members have been picking grapes.  Chuck went for muscadines in Tyrone, while Alan and I went the more traditional route.  This vineyard is near Hendersonville.  Very nicely manicured as you can see from the pics
I think these grapes are Petit Manseng
Well tended vineyard.  Speakers around the vineyard were producing predatory bird calls.  This keeps the grape eating birds away from the grapes without nets.

Petit Manseng
The brix on these grapes can get as high as 30.  This makes a nice desert wine which is very popular in France.  This particular batch has a brix of only 22.  I am fine with that as I expect to make a dry white with these grapes

I picked some Petit Verdot as well.  After a 48 hour cold soak and 3 days of fermentation I decided to squeeze the berries, even though fermentation was not nearly done.  Taste showed that the tannins were high already and I am not interested in an overly tannic wine that has to age for 3 years to be drinkable.
This juice is dark as india ink

You can see the foam on the top of the fresh squeezed juice.

The brix was only 18 so chaptalizing was in order.  PH is 3.6 to 3.7
T/A is .75 percent

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

August meeting at Alan's house

Paul, Eric and Chuck sipping wine out by the pool at Alan's house

Eric and Paul brought significant others.  Anna and Julia also sipping wine and eating thin wheats in the protective smog of a citronella candle.  This is in Alan's Gazebo.  The snacks were outside and the weather was great.

Alan entertaining the ladies

Decending the steps to Alan's basement winery

This man is serious.  He has a stainless sink and cabinet top with necessary fittings to pass inspection.
you can see in this pic seven primary fermentators, all filled with grapes and all fermenting.  These buckets are larger than the usual 6 gallon bucket.  Perhaps, if memory serves, they hold 12 gallons.  Alan uses them in his pool business to hold chlorine.  When empty they make good fermentors.  Alan also has a machine shop where he has made his own basket press and his own crusher and destemmer.

Chuck giving the must the old sniff test.  Three times Chuck.

You can see that Alan is a serious winemaker.  Here is the data sheet with the vitals.  Each bucket has a sheet with the measurements.  Alan experiments with various yeasts and other perameters if he has enough of one type of grape to get two buckets going.

Stirring the cap.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Shindig at Chuck's place

The "meeting" this month was at Chuck's place.  FBV members were invited to help intertain at an open house that Chuck held for local dignitaries to celebrate the opening of his vineyard and his demonstration farm emphasizing local, sustainable agriculture.  Alan, John, Cynthia, and Ron brought the wine, most of it home made and we picked up some potential new members from some of the guests who were interested in the whole wine making venture.

a tour of chucks demo garden

Chuck's greenhouse where he is able to root muscadine grapes.  This is a tough task since mountain muscadines do not really want to root from cuttings. 

New growth is cut, the ends are treated with rooting hormone, and then the cuttings are dept at a warm temp, and a high humidity in this greenhouse until the roots are established

Socme of Chucks vines

This is not a muscadine.  It is a grape that is suffering from black rot.  It has been a wet year, this vine really is too young to be having offspring, so the occasional grape that is allowed to be born has not been sprayed with anything.  This shows what happens when they are left on their own.

Here is the French Broad Vigneron wine table.  Good stuff and it was free.

A show of Alan (in the horizontal stipes).  He brought an assortment of fine tasting wines.

Chuck's garden is artistic as well as functional

Monday, May 30, 2011

Cynthia's Vision

Cynthia is one of the members of the FBV and has a beautiful place and an interesting vision directing her grape growing and wine making.  On the surface, she likes Vouvray wine and has selected grapes that, though they are not classic Vouvray  Chenin blanc grapes, are close enough and will grow well and ripen nicely in our cooler climate.  She is growing Baco noir (a red grape, the exception), La Crescent (one of the University of Minnisota hybrids), Esprit (a variety developed by Elmer Swenson), and Frontanac Gris (another hybrid from the University of Minnesota).  Cynthia was nice enough to write a brief article for the blog explaining why she is growing grapes and what she hopes to develope on her land. 

A vision of grapegrowing and winemaking in Eastern Madison County.
In 2008, my best friend and fiancé, Steve Snow and I set out to clear a mountain pasture, with
the intention of putting in the grape of my favorite wine. We were thinking of being more self
sufficient up on our mountain top. We cleared the steep pasture by hand, burned all the brush
there on site, and researched this grape of my all time favorite wine, a Loire Valley white from
the village Vouvray.

Steve, a counselor specializing in childhood trauma, and I purchased a log cabin that year at
the One Special Christmas auction in Charlotte (long story best told another time). Two days
after Christmas, in 2008, while working to clear a spot of mountain wood for this cabin, Steve
apparently had a heart attack and died the same day.
Not knowing what in the world to do or how to continue on this path alone, toward cabin
building, and grapegrowing, but nonetheIess intent on pursuing our vision, I attended a few
conferences seeking help. Thus in the spring of 2009, I met Chuck Blethen. He and Jeannie
came and told me which “cold hardy” grapes I should, in fact, put into a test plot on the little
mountain pasture Steve and I had cleared.

 Chenin blanc, the grape of my beloved Vouvray
would not grow up on our cold mountain, but the pasture we had cleared just happened to be
southeasterly facing and in a fairly perfect location by our old barn. Chuck early on envisioned
the little log barn becoming a winery eventually up on this hill.

Meanwhile Steve’s dear old buddies from Charlotte have logged a lot of hours coming back and
forth between surgeries, and the distance from their homes in Charlotte, to help construct our
cabin by hand.

 We have managed to place the cabin a lot farther up the mountain than was
convenient, but keeping true to the location Steve and I had picked just before he died. They
have also helped me with a vision of using the cabin for a counselor’s retreat center where
counselors could come to study and prepare to help traumatized women pull themselves up out
of their abusive living circumstances.

 I have been in discussion with a local nonprofit called Our
Voice about having these sessions and board meetings in the cabin as soon as it is completed.
The vision has grown to encompass more of our mountain top being turned into vineyard that
perhaps some women, who are needing a safe place to stay and recover, could come and heal
through the planting of vines, the tending of grapes, the making and drinking of the delicious,
rich wine. Steve’s daughter, Mary Snow, with her exquisite palate, is to be head winemaker.

I have imagined nights up on our hill, lit with little solar lights up the mountain outlining the rows
of vines, music coming from the cabin and the winery, the mountain bustling with clean, safe
human activity centered around the grapevines and the magical concoctions springing from
its fruit. Now all that’s left is to move toward retirement from a busy public health practice of
medicine to start actually accomplishing that dream.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

rooting some cuttings

I got these hybrid cuttings from Cynthia Yancey.  Of the 40 or so cuttings almost all of them still have the leaves they had when they were put in the ground.  It has been over 3 weeks and I am hopeful they are putting down roots.

ON the other hand.  This is one of the few 6 out of 40 Norton grape cuttings that I put in the ground this past February, complete with rooting hormone, leaf mulch, 2/3 of the stem buried.  Nortons resist rooting.  this stem seems to be choosing life, an exception amongst its peers.  I had better luck layering my Nortons this past summer.  3 out of 8 lived.  Still not good but better.

DO NOT forget the FBV meeting this Thursday 6:30 pm

We will have pot luck dinner, wine tasting (of course) and a muscadine wine contest.  CALL CHUCK for directions and more info.  Plans will  be made for hosting an open house to promote our cause.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Varments invade my vineyard

This is the work of a leafroller.

More leafroller damage

If you open up the web tied rolled up leaf there is a little green caterpillar inside

Here it is.  It's dead.  I used Captain Jack's  Deadbug Brew and sprayed the vines really well.  One of the things Captain Jack's works on is leaf feeding caterpillars.  That describes the leaf roller
Captain Jack's is an Organic Spray composed of a strain of Bacillus bacteria.  You can use it and still produce an Organic Wine

Here is another slight problem which I plan to research.  It is not a really bad problem yet but I would like it not to become one.

My Norton Grapes are growing vigorously.  This will be my second crop of Nortons.  It looks like I will get a better crop than last year, but I do not want to jinx myself by predicting a good return too soon.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

More shots from the AVA in Yadkin valley

We visited 7 North Carolina piedmont wineries, each of which grew all their own grapes.  This first was called Rag Apple Lassie.  It was named after a cow that the owner of the vineyard raised as a youth.  A sculpture of the cow stands at the entrance

To get to the tasting room you walk past the fermentation and bulk aging vats.  Quite an enterprise

I guess this is the bulk aging area along with the tasting bar.  One of the wines that I liked the best from here was their Kalidoscope Red.  It was a blend of Mourdvedre, Petit Verdot, Merlot, and both Cabernets. All the grapes were grown at this vineyard.  Very nice fruit forward wine with an excellent finish.

Another big vineyard patterned after an italian vineyard, this is Raffaldini.  Some serious money has been invested in this enterprise. 

A view of the grounds and fields around Raffaldini.  It is not only a vineyard and winery, but an event destination as well.  There are about 40 acres under cultivation here.

A good place to eat lunch, this Amish store makes excellent sandwiches and the price is right

The seven vineyards we visited ranged in size from startup operations with about 5 acres of grapes to really big ones like Raffaldini and several others that had nearly 10 times that much in cultivation.  What is clear is that viticulture and winemaking require more work than land.  You can make a pretty big operation and a decent income on 20 or 30 acres of land.