Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Seeing as this is a "Vineyard Blog," how about some blogging about the vineyard? As usual, spring comes roaring in with lots to do, including mowing, spraying, training vines, and scouting for insect and fungal pests. There's plenty to do out there this time of year. Once the temperatures start getting up in the 80s you really need to stay on top of any disease pressure because warm wet springs set the tone for the rest of the growing season. Diseases that take hold on the leaves and blooms are impossible to eradicate later in the summer once they've affected the fruit.

So, what am I up to out there today? Well, I'm working on the Sabrevois vines, which are well ahead of the Traminette and Cynthiana vines in terms of growth stage. They are really taking off. We grow this particular grape on a trellis style called Vertical Shoot Position. This trellis is typically used with upright growing cultivars and there is a main wire that holds the horizontal cordons, the lateral arms from which the rest of the shoots grow vertically. The main wire is roughly 40" above the ground and then at eight-inch intervals above that there are additional pairs of catch wires. These catch wires are attached on either side of the wooden vineyard posts with little plastic clips that hold them in place during the growing season. These movable catch wires provide a sort of cage that holds the shoots straight up, allowing for good air circulation and good sun exposure for the fruit, which is essential to ripening it. What I'm doing this week is walking along each row of vines and tucking the shoots, some of which are a couple of feet long, inside these catch wires. I'm spreading the shoots out and untangling the ones that have wrapped around each other, and I'm also stripping any new shoots that are coming out of the lower portion of the trunk. I usually let the sheep do this part but I have them out of the vineyard right now because we are spraying a fungicide that they cannot ingest. There is a window of time between the last spray of this particular fungicide and when the sheep can get back in there to graze, so the vineyard is off limits for the time being. Not to worry though, I have run hot wire around the house and I have them currently mowing part of the yard and an area with a lot of brush and weeds that have been a pain in the butt for a couple of years. They're making quick work of it and it will soon look as nice as the rest of the yard.

The Sabrevois grapes are starting to bloom this week. The grape blossoms smells incredible. There's really nothing that smells like a blooming vineyard, but it only lasts for a few days and then it's gone. We've had several days of warm, dry weather which bodes well for good fruit set. This grape is the first to bloom, out of the three cultivars we are growing. It typically ripens in Iowa in mid to late August. We have five rows of roughly 60 vines each of this grape and it is absolutely full of tiny clusters of flowers which will become clusters of tiny grapes in a few days.