Friday, September 30, 2011

New Fall Hours and Canned Goods!

As Autumn approaches, and the world slows down, we too, at The Farm at Dover Vineyards will be slowing down. We'll be open Tuesday-Friday 12-5:30. We hope that you will not find this change to be inconvenient. If you are unable to visit us during our business hours, please, just call me, and I'll try to meet you up at the farm stand to provide you with some of our yummy greens and winter squash! Remember- eating local is not just a possibility in the summer! Living in North Carolina allows us to eat local fresh produce all year long!

Also, I am very excited to introduce to you our canned goods section of the store! One of our customers has taken home the excess produce of our farm and begun to can the deliciousness of summer. 

We've got: 
Canned Tomatoes 
Pizza Sauce
Green and Red Pepper Relish
Sweet and Spicy Jalapenos
Chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce
Yellow Tomato and Honey Butter 
Uncle Scott's Root Beer
Honey from Big Oak Farms

We hope you'll find the time to come by and visit us this fall. In many ways, this is one of the most delicious and nutritious seasons we have!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Our First Surplus Dinner!

No matter how well you plan, it always happens that you end up with produce you can't sell. It's part of the territory of ensuring a constant supply of product to your customers. I've found myself cooking large dinners for many of my friends and their friends this summer. Everyone really seemed to enjoy the 'farm-fresh' seasonality of the meals, so I thought to myself, why not take this public? I'm sure I'm breaking some health code and what not, but my mother (the chef for the evening) is Safe Serve Certified (I love having a cafeteria lady in my family).

So we'll be having a dinner October 1st from 7:30- finish up at the farm stand (3600 Concord Pkwy S Concord NC 28027). It'll be $15 per head and well worth it! You may BYO, since it's basically going to be the Dover Family, Friends, and Friends of Friends. Email me to reserve your spot. I would rather have money in hand before the dinner, but we will be selling spots the night of (unless we run out of space!).

The menu will most likely be a mixed greens salad, spaghetti squash tossed with pesto and topped with eggplant, and some sort of dessert.

Don't miss this lovely dining experience!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Blog Neglect- the harvest

So we've already harvested our grapes. Sorry I didn't let you know. It was a hectic time. Since we didn't get our winery built or licensed this year, we had to search for a place to make a few gallons of experimental wine. We decided on my father's walk-in cooler in the back of the old Dover's Supermarket. Sure it's not the winery I had hoped to have and fermenting two wines while having only one temperature is sure to compromise the quality of the production, but this has still been a great experience. A friend of mine once asked me "How do you learn to make good wine? Make bad wine!" Well, I hope that's not what I'm doing, but we've hit many obstacles along the way which (H2S and VA) will help me to be a better winemaker down the line.

In true Dover Farms fashion, we did all the of the winemaking by hand. We used a hand crank crusher destemmer, a manual basket press, we carried the grapes and must up the back stairs to the cooler where the juice and must were macerated and fermented. We had tons of great volunteers who came out on a Saturday to help us pick, sort, and crush/destem our Vidal. It was truly a village like experience. It makes me realize even more than ever that this whole venture would not be possible without the incredible support of our community. They are so excited for this wine because they've watched the vineyard grow; they've worked on the vines; they've helped harvest the grapes: they can't wait to taste a sip of their work.

We harvested our Chambourcin at 23 Brix and 3.4 pH. A large portion of the grapes had started to get ripe rot and we decided to harvest them on the 67th day after we sprayed Mancozeb (it has a 66 day PHI). The numbers were perfect for making a light red wine. We harvested our Vidal blanc the day after a pretty hard rain. It was a gamble if we should pick that day or not, but that morning, the numbers were 23 Brix and a 3.3 pH. I couldn't ask for better numbers! We harvested a few on Sunday and Monday the days following (rain was scheduled for those days, however it didn't happen). The numbers didn't really go up. The flavour of the grapes was not strong, but thanks to some enzyme action and maceration, we'll hopefully make a wine that doesn't taste like diluted gatorade.

I don't have any pictures right now of the harvest (I misplaced my camera for about a month), so I'll have to download some from my phone as soon as I figure out how to do that.

All of the wines have finished fermenting and the Chambourcin has begun its malo-lactic conversion. I hope to be able to cold stabilize both of them very very soon (since they are in the same room). The wines are tasting quite good and I can't wait to taste the final product. We'll have some in bottles around December, so stop by the farm stand and ask for a taste!!

We've made all the mistakes so you don't have to!

Bird netting is frustrating. Bird netting on a Geneva Double Curtain is even more frustrating. There's no way around it. I wonder why no one warned me about this when we started out.

Well, enough complaining. Here's how we have decided to keep the birds out.
1) We nailed 8oz deli cups to the ends of 5 ft 2x4s
2) Then we nailed the 2x4s to the tops of our posts.
3) Then we ran twine between the 2x4s to keep the netting off of the vines.
4) After that, we draped the net.
5) We found that the best way to secure the netting is to you sew rows together and then tack down the other sides with 4 inch sod staples under line of bailing twine nailed to the ground.

This all sounds very easy. The thing is, we tried every other possible way to do this before we came up with these solutions.

So here's what NOT to do:
1) Do not sew together more than 3 rows. The tension on the nets becomes inoperable, slows down progress, and will rip the nets if you have a strong wind. We sewed together the first 16 rows of the vineyard. Bad idea.

2) Drape more liberally than you think you should. You can tighten the nets (so the birds can't sit on them and stick their little beak through the nets) sufficiently by twisting the nets around the staples.

3) Keep the ends untacked, but secured with rocks so you can scare the birds out in the mornings and not have to re-tack later

4) 1 1/2 inch fencing staples won't work. 2 inch fencing staples won't work. 2 1/2 inch fencing staples won't work. 16 penny nails won't work. 20 penny nails will work, but they're expensive and a chore to remove. 4 inch sod staples are perfect, cheap, fast, and easily reclaimed.

5) It's important to have enough slack to tuck the netting under the ground wire after tacking every 2-3 feet or so. This will save a lot of staples, time and energy.

Things I might consider doing next year:

1) Get 22 ft netting instead of 17 ft netting. That way, tucking is much easier

2) sew on a few extra feet on the ends of every row so that we have more slack to tuck under the bailing twine

3) replace the bailing twine that runs from 2x4 to 2x4 with some sort of wire to keep the netting of the vines a little more

4) putting some sort of guide wire from the 2x4 to the ground and then running another wire between the guide wires about 4 ft off the ground to keep the nets away from the fruiting zone a little more

5) un-sew the first block of nets so that there is much less tension on the first 16 rows

Well, that's a summary of what we've learned these past two hectic weeks. A big thank you to my friend and resident expert in bird netting, Patrick Meagher for helping us work this out and keeping me more sane than I would have been otherwise.

Thanks to my Mom for stepping up her hours at the store so we could devote more hours to the bird netting, and of course, to my dad, for paying for it.

Now we must tend to the pumpkins, which we have neglected for about 2 months. Geez.