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Wine Blog


Carolyn Tillie
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Our exceptionally early, warm Spring is levelling off -- we are having cool mornings that giveway to lovely, moderate afternoons. It will be slow going for a while.

Our vine:

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My poor attempt at a different angle, to show last week's sprouts (sorry it was blurry - I'll do better next week):

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And this is Fernando Velasco. We are planting new vines and he is preparing the ground with the amazing giant drill. (I am frequently admiring the incredibly hard work that goes into all this)

i5076.jpg

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What a lovely photograph of the tiny grapes! What are they called at this stage in their development? Grape-ettes? Fetal grapes? Many thanks for involving us in this wonderful process.

Gabriel calls them clusters -- he looked at the picture and said there should be four clusters forming (which there might be which we can't tell from the angle I took the shot).

I'm pretty amazed at how much those little sprouts grew in one week -- we assumed the cool weather would slow it down, but it has been surprisingly bright and moderately warm in the afternoons (still cool and sometimes foggy in the mornings).

The next three months are when we worry most about frost. Gabriel has a frost sensor that rings an alarm by his bedside that will wake him up in the middle night if the temperature gets too low. He and a few of the others will get up in the middle of the night to start the fans to keep the plants from freezing. So far this season, he has had three frost days - last year there were 20 of them. The less frost warnings, the better.

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Sometimes two or three years' worth of experiments are given and if the quality is not up-to-snuff, the entire lot might be budded over with another grape.

Can you explain what "budded over" means? Are the actual vines removed and new ones put in? Or is a grafting thing?

An excellent and informative blog with fabulous pictures! I am looking forward to the rest of the year. Thank you for taking the time to do this.

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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Sometimes two or three years' worth of experiments are given and if the quality is not up-to-snuff, the entire lot might be budded over with another grape.

Can you explain what "budded over" means? Are the actual vines removed and new ones put in? Or is a grafting thing?

An excellent and informative blog with fabulous pictures! I am looking forward to the rest of the year. Thank you for taking the time to do this.

Thank you, Toliver! Great question!

"Budded over" is a grafting thing. If a winery is not pleased with the quality of its grape, without having to entirely rip up a good base, a new varietal can be grafted on to existing rootstock. At Gundlanch Bundschu, for example, they were unhappy with some Gamay grapes and budded them over with Pinot Noir. No new stock had to be purchased because the base (or "clone" as it is known in the industry) was sufficient.

When a vine gets hit with a disease or is not a satisfactory-enough stock, it might be ripped out and re-planted with new stock. When the Stotesberys purchased the Woltner estate, they ripped out the Burgundian-style Chardonnay that existed in the vineyards and re-planted with a variety of different stocks for their Cabernet because phylloxera was evident throughout the vineyards (and much of the Napa valley, actually).

For all intents-and-purpose, there are three grades of stock available to a winery (and these are all grown and nurtured by professional, industry nurseries, BTW - never by a winery themselves that I know of...):

Benchgraft, Rootstock, and Greengrower.

A Greengrower stock is planted and budded over by the nursery and sold to the winery when there is actual green sprouts appearing out of the plant.

Rootstock is the same as Greengrower, however they are sold to the wineries before they sprout.

Benchgraft is a form of rootstock that is planted and then grafted (or "budded over") in the field.

edited for spelling

Edited by Carolyn Tillie (log)
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Thanks for the explanation. It makes perfect sense.

Which leads to another question I had that you sort of answered already in part:

If a soil disease does hit a vineyard, is it goodbye vinyard? Or is there a way to "clean" or treat the soil so more vines can be planted?

If a vine gets a disease you said it gets pulled. But do you run the risk of the new vines you plant getting the same disease?

And how often are your vineyards left fallow (is that the right word?) or does that not come into play for vineyards?

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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Thanks for the explanation. It makes perfect sense.

Which leads to another question I had that you sort of answered already in part:

If a soil disease does hit a vineyard, is it goodbye vinyard? Or is there a way to "clean" or treat the soil so more vines can be planted?

If a vine gets a disease you said it gets pulled. But do you run the risk of the new vines you plant getting the same disease?

And how often are your vineyards left fallow (is that the right word?) or does that not come into play for vineyards?

One more question: Does the clone ever reject the bud? I'm thinking of heart transplants, and the body rejecting the new part. Can you bud any variety of grape to any type of clone? Would the budded clone fruit still be considered a 'pure' variety?

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I've asked Bombdog to jump in and help contribute... seems he's got a degree in Viticulture and knows way more than I ever will! I'm just a photographer and wanna-be aficiando...

Hopefully the two of us together can get your questions answered!

Edited to fix the spelling of my co-conspirator's name...

Edited by Carolyn Tillie (log)
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One more question: Does the clone ever reject the bud? I'm thinking of heart transplants, and the body rejecting the new part. Can you bud any variety of grape to any type of clone? Would the budded clone fruit still be considered a 'pure' variety?

Thanks Carolyn for being so gracious and asking me to chime in. I'll try not to embarrass you (or myself for that matter)

Now I'll see if I can answer some of these questions. (digging back to my General Vit textbook)

It is possible for a rootstock to reject a field graft. However, field grafters here in the valley do a good job. It is a craft near art form and some of the guys are artists.

Essentially, you can graft any variety to any rootstock. There are many limitations, and as such only a few rootstock's are used. (see below)

I'm not sure about an answer to the 'pure' question. I suppose only a Merlot grown on a Merlot rootstock would be a pure Merlot. However, as you'll read below in the explanation of phylloxera, that would be a bad idea in North America. Therefore, a Merlot scion grafted to a rootstock which is resistant to phylloxera and chosen for the specific vineyard conditions would produce a much better grape than a pure vine.

I think the soil disease your are referring to is phylloxera, which is not a soil disease at all, but a tiny nematode which feeds off the roots of a vine. There really is no 'cure' for phylloxera, as it is native to North America. There have been some attempts to eliminate vineyard soil of the nematode, but to my knowledge none have been successful, and are very expensive propositions. Instead, the common answer is to graft a varietal scion (type of wine grape) to a rootstock that is 'resistant' to phylloxera. Most rootstock used today are hybrids of the original 3 Carolyn mentioned. Besides resistance to phylloxera, rootstock's are selected for a variety of other reasons having to do with the varietal of grape to be grown, and the soil and conditions of the vineyard.

If a vineyard is found to be infected with phylloxera the only 'cure' is to remove the vines and replant with resistant rootstock.

There are other diseases common to wine grape growing, but good vineyard management practices can pretty much keep the damage to a minimum.

I don't know of anyone in the valley who would leave a vineyard fallow. The economics of starting a vineyard are such that a grower pretty much needs to have the vineyard producing grapes as soon as possible, and for as long a time as possible. Once again, good vineyard practices, such as sustainable agriculture, keep the vineyard soil in good condition to produce year after year.

Whew! I hope that's not too long winded and answers the questions.

Dave Valentin

Retired Explosive Detection K9 Handler

"So, what if we've got it all backwards?" asks my son.

"Got what backwards?" I ask.

"What if chicken tastes like rattlesnake?" My son, the Einstein of the family.

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I echo Hathor's thanks! I appreciate you taking the time to post the information.

You did Carolyn proud. :wink:

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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Thanks for the kind words folks.

As an aside....vineyard managers all over the valley are holding their breath at this moment. Our fabulous weather of a few weeks ago has turned on us here. We are expecting thundershowers and possibly hail over the next couple of days. To make matters worse the forecasters are predicting sub 32 degree temperatures Sunday and Monday night. That would be a very bad thing, as freezing will ruin the crop. It was near freezing when I got up at 5 this morning and you could hear the vineyard fans all over.

There will be a few sleepless nights coming up for those folks.

Dave Valentin

Retired Explosive Detection K9 Handler

"So, what if we've got it all backwards?" asks my son.

"Got what backwards?" I ask.

"What if chicken tastes like rattlesnake?" My son, the Einstein of the family.

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You did Carolyn proud. :wink:

Why yes he did, didn't he? He PMd me some info and am thrilled that I've got someone to help out on all this technical stuff... I know Gabriel and Karen don't mind answering questions, but I also know that I'm bad about getting all the information exactly correct. Now we've got someone that will be able to explain things much more clearly and correctly!

Whooopeeee!

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With a blog like this, the only reason to visit a winery is to drink the wine!

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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It was near freezing when I got up at 5 this morning and you could hear the vineyard fans all over.

There will be a few sleepless nights coming up for those folks.

Yes, driving up valley this morning, everyone's blowers were running. I walked into the winery and asked Gabriel how his evening was, expecting to find him groggy from a night of battling frost. Seems the cold in the valley didn't reach us here on the mountain - no frost for us, at least not last night. Will let you know how the weekend went...

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Funny thing about fall and spring frosts - they usually hit the low-lying areas worst as the cold area sinks and the warmer air rises. I live on a small mountain and the frosts hit us much later in the fall and leave us much earlier in the spring than in the low-lying areas.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Funny thing about fall and spring frosts - they usually hit the low-lying areas worst as the cold area sinks and the warmer air rises.

Indeed, that is very true. If you drive around Napa Valley you will notice that the vineyard fans used for frost protection are located on the valley floor and in areas where cooler air will pool.

Back when I was in school a friend and I did a project where we designed a vineyard with trees that would redirect the cold air around a vineyard floor.

Dave Valentin

Retired Explosive Detection K9 Handler

"So, what if we've got it all backwards?" asks my son.

"Got what backwards?" I ask.

"What if chicken tastes like rattlesnake?" My son, the Einstein of the family.

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Carolyn, this continues to be a fascinating and valuable blog. By the way I love your new avatar.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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