Friday, March 8, 2013

The Post I wish I didn't have to write--- How to rip out a vineyard and my trip to Texas!!!

The daffodils are out, the maples are budding, and the days are getting longer. As farmers, we too are starting to gear up for spring now and I think we're more or less on schedule. It's been a winter of steady, tedious work hoeing the vineyard, taking up the black plastic, and pulling up the vines. The Pierce's Diseased Vidal blanc has now been removed and we're getting prepped to plant our Villard blanc in a few days.

For those of you who are interested, this is how we pulled out the vineyard:

1) Cut the tops of the vines off
2) Remove the landscape fabric
3) On a day when the soil is soft, but not soggy, tie some nylon rope to the nub of the vine and attach that to a little ATV and drive forward!

If that doesn't work, a shovel always helps. We took out about 250 vines/ day. It's a very quick process.
Right now, we're in the process of digging wholes for the new Villard blanc. We will fill those with a little shovel full of horse manure, pot ash, and bonemeal. We'll be planting our new plants on Thursday, Friday and Saturday the 14th, 15th, and 16th of March, so let me know if you want to come out and help! A few hours of your time will make the greatest difference. Putting out the new black plastic will be the biggest challenge.
So, last week, I went to Texas to try some of their Blanc du bois and Lenoir. I traveled to Houston, Austin, and Dallas. The Lenoir is a red grape that actually has red juice. I wasn't as impressed with these wines as I was with the Blanc du bois. The wines had a savoury characteristic to them that wore quite quickly. That said, I'm still going to plant 75 of them soon to see how they do in NC.
One grower I visited seemed to have broken the code with how to make a good Lenoir. He graciously shared with me his trials and recipes, giving me tastes from the different barrels and explaining to me his thought processes. The Texas wine community was so hospitable.
William Chris in the Fredricksburg area.
The Blanc du bois I had were delicious! They ranged in style from very low-alcohol, high acid wines to more standard Sauvignon blanc style. They were best when they had about 1% residual Sugar. It was almost an imperceptible sweetness (it's still a technically dry wine), but it gave a bit of weight to the mid-palate that was desperately needed. Apparently, the acids disappear very quickly as it gets hotter, so they find it necessary to pick the fruit around 18-20 Brix (23 is normally the target). I had a few favourite producers:
1) Haak Winery had the high acid, low alcohol wines along with a delicious Madeira
2) William Chris had the great balance
3) Lost Oak had the most similar growing conditions to NC, so I look forward to trying to imitate them!
If you're ever in Texas, I would recommend going to visit some of their wineries. I also enjoyed lots of breakfast burritos, chips and salsa, a kolachi, and some fine Texas beers. I also have a new favourite radio station- The Ranch. It's 100% Texas music and awesome. I tolerated the suburbia which seemed to dominate much of the driving I did there, but once I got into the grape growing areas, the countryside was gorgeous. I can't imagine what it would be like during the summers though. So hot and dry. God bless all those cows. The droughts they experience are incomprehensible.
On a different topic, we'll start planting our Spring garden soon. Its been raining so much recently, we've had a hard time getting the tractor in the field to prep the soil. I think next year, we'll prep in the fall and let the soil freeze (and hopefully not erode) over the winter. We're getting better at this every year.
We'll start taking orders for our CSA soon! Not much longer and I will have forgotten how cool and relaxing these winter days were.

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