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.