Saturday, June 30, 2007


John Kelso: Hey, Joe, what happened? Joe Odom: Oh, that Jim Williams went and shot somebody. CanapĂ©? —Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Connie's Post:
Appropos of nothing, that movie quote. except when gerald and i are working in the vineyard at a certain time of year and the discussion centers upon the amount of leaves the vines are putting out. then we get the giggles. and a seemingly innocuous word, "canopy" becomes we adopt outlandish southern accents, imitating the characters from the movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. the topic of our discussion?

leaf canopy management.

if you google leaf canopy management, you'll find many entries—many serious entries— regarding the care and techniques in working with the vertical and lateral shoots, the vine spacing, the types of trellising, the leaf removal from the east facing side to maximize the warming morning sun while protecting the grape clusters from the hot afternoon sun and at the same time, improving air circulation.

this is not that type of article.

here you see uncle pete and gerald looking through the leaf canopy. gerald had just finished telling uncle pete the best balanced canopy is where you can tell what shirt someone on the other side is wearing, but you can't see that person's face. just make you want to smile, doesn't it?

all goofiness aside, gerald had been to a vineyard management seminar at the linden vineyard (located in virginia), the previous sunday and learned quite a bit regarding how to work with the vineyard and the vine. being new to vineyard management, i don't profess to be an expert. i cannot even say i remember everything gerald spoke about while showing us how he needed to have us tend to the vines. what i am presenting today is a simple story of how uncle peter and i interpreted gerald's brief demonstration when we managed our rows' canopy. canopy management in the vineyard is a process of keeping the vine in balance throughout the growing season and essential to producing a grape in balance. an
exuberant proliferation of leaves, while to a casual eye may seem like a thing of beauty, does nothing for the grape produced. the heaviness of leaf production can shade the grape clusters from the sun, resulting in impeding ripening affect the flavor structure. The lack of sun affects the color of the skins of the grapes, and since the grape skin contributes mightily to the color and flavour of the wine, you need that skin to reach its maximum potential. by removing the necessary leaves and lateral shoots, air circulation is improved and disease like rot and mildew can be prevented. remove too much, though, and the grapes could get sunburned or not ripen well. its a delicate balance.

first, gerald said it was important to remove the east-side facing leaves below the grape clusters. removing these leaves will help expose the grapes to the morning sun, a gentle warming action. later, when the sun rises overhead and starts on its western descent, the overhead and western facing canopy will protect the vineyard from the harsher afternoon rays. here, you see gerald demonstrating for uncle pete how and where to snap off the leaves and which lateral shoots should go. i came into the vineyard a little late on the demo, so uncle peter then gave me a recap of how to remove leaves and shoots as gerald moved on to his other vineyard chores.

the next series of images shows uncle peter demonstrating how you needed to look into the vine's canopy, find the grape cluster and start to work around, snapping off the leaves in front, making sure you don't accidently grab the cluster itself, and removing the shoots that were growing sideways (lateral). once you did this properly, there was the eastern-exposed cluster. uncle pete and i worked our respective rows that afternoon, snapping and pulling on the vines.

the last two small pictures are the resulting before and after picture. first, you'll see the canopy is dense and the clusters are shaded. the next image shows the cluster are now exposed and the air circulation has been improved. once i finished my row and looked back, i really got a sense of accomplishment.

i also feel i am beginning to understand the different varieties of grapes we are proofing grow in different ways. like the sangiovese—wildly exuberant—the row is like the big blond labrador retriever of our east vineyard. seeing the first row of the proofing vineyard just puts a smile on my face as i enter the vineyard. now, though, i see we need to put more discipline into the training of our puppies. on the other hand, we have a variety like the marchand—clearly the well-disciplined standard show poodle of the vineyard. here is a picture of a nicely structured marchand vine. i think this is how we'd like the vines and their vertical shoots to be placed. exceptionally pretty with the afternoon sun illuminating the leaves.

Friday, June 29, 2007

A Simple Matter of Taste

Connie's Post:
Mike Steinberger? Pretty entertaining writer regarding wine. I've linked you to a previous article where he discusses writing about wine and the terminology. Here is another link to a series of articles and here he discusses the physiology of the oenophile—what is taste and what it means to be a supertaster. Bon appetit!

Do You Want to be a Supertaster?
The Physiology of the wine critic.
By Mike Steinberger

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Southern Maryland is Flat

Extremely flat. but south africa is not. i know it has nothing to do with the farm or vineyard, but just go along for the ride:

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Leaves as Large as a Married Man's Hand!

Ginormous leaves, the size of a married man's hand appear in the vineyard!
Connie's Post:
Its another pleasant valley Sunday today. i have only one task to accomplish today and no filial duties. The boys are at grandpa bootcamp and my husband is attending a Linden vineyard workshop. the rest of the day stretches in front of me like the rolling Kansas plains did when i was young and my family would embark upon a driving tour of the west. gerald laughed at me stretched lazily on the blue couch and quoted a line from office space:

"I did nothing. I did absolutely nothing, and it was everything I thought it could be."

and i did do nothing til 9:45am. then i cranked up the mac. my nothing today is to get caught up on the blog. then we'll see what other nothing i'll get into. i sorted through the june 9th images. just a few more and we'll have that series done. which is a good thing. i have many, many new images and stories just waiting.

June 9: State of the Proofing Vineyard

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Weekly Entries, May 26-June 19

From the Farm Journal Archives:

26 May 07, GB: HOT. 90s. No rain. GB weeded around 2 year old viognier vines. KM & CB weeded around vidal vines. BB hung bicycle wheels to end posts to facilitate netting the vines later in the year.

27 May 07, GB: Sunny hot. no rain. BB & GB used trailer, picked up cub cadet mower from TSC Mower @ Charlotte Hall. Moved water tank to E. vineyard—GB truck could not get enough traction to pull tank up the hill.

29 May 07, BB/CC/PC: 70-80s. breezy. beautiful. stacked popular lumber. CC piled up dead christmas trees. BB culled christmas trees for burning, mowed around trees.

30 May 07, BB: thinking about changing input section of 1/2 hp pump to one inch fittings. might eliminate loss of prime when irrigating. i suspect that when diameter in = diameter out & we pump downhill, the gravity sucks out and moves water than the pump can pump in.

2 June 07, GB: cloudy & warm. upper 80s. no rain. GB thinned shoots and trained vines in W. vineyard. BB water vines in E. vineyard.

3 June 07, GB: RAIN! inserted blue tarp liner in tank behind lab. BB covered w/mesh to catch leaves. fixed dead bolt latch on back door.

5 June 07, CC/PC: beautiful day—clear. humid to start, alot of breeze 1.0" in rain gauge. hung back door screen. packed up trash in shed to take to dump. finished stacking lumber by old barn. trimmed & trained vines in W. vineyard. not finished. mowed E. vineyard. cross wire and height wires. vines look good.

9 June 07, GB: made it down by 2pm, Boy1 had TaeKwonDo belt ceremony. one belt away from black belt.

12 June 07, CC/PC: 70s & 80s, light breeze, average humidity. no rain in guage, it was upside down. Picked up trailer at Peter's William brought his bill for the east acreage, Jimmy came, too. Their Ma had a bad fall while going down their back porch. Charlie picked up culled trees w. trailer. Peter tied up all shoots close to ground in E. vineyard. Huge clouds today, very lonely. Need rain. vineyard looks good. German wasp damage to Nordsmanns—striking!!

16 June 07, GB: BB put filters in outlets on large water tank cut back branches along field to lot 11. GB arrived in afternon, after MGGA field day @ summerseat. worked in W. vineyard, training shoots in rows 1-9. mowed entire W. vineyard. nice day.

17 June 07, GB &/BB: HOT breezy. not too bad. BB cleaned mobile tank, flushed w/water. East side of rows needed leaf pulling.

19 June 07, CC/PC: 70s & 90s. cleary hazyhot, light breeze. found Melvin's home, spoke to wife. He is barn man, catch him there between 4-5pm. fascinating place. CC mowed. PC picked wine grape leaves in E. side of rows in W. vineyard. Fishied row 1, started row 2, slow going—gets to the back after awhile. Tomorrow is CC's 75th birthday. hurrah, hurrah. lets have a jubilee.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Shine, as Children Do

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

A Return to Love,
by Marianne Williamson.

2007 Virginia Field Day Notes

Gerald's Post:
This past Saturday I attended the the MGGA Summer Field Day at Summerseat Vineyard just down the road from us in Charlotte Hall. Pat Isle, the vineyard manager, hosted the event.

Summerseat dates back to 1732 and is unusual for SoMD in that it was an interior plantation. Most plantations were located on the water, as a necessity for transportation. The primary dwelling is listed in the Marland HIstorical Trust survey no. SM-181. The property is now held by a non-profit organization dedicated to it's preservation and promotion of mankind's connection with the land, plants and animals.

The current vineyard at Summerseat is a 1/2 acre testing site with many different varieties planted, usually in groups of four vines, although there are a large number of Foch, Vidal Blanc, Norton, and Chambourcin. Smaller numbers of Viognier, Sangiovese, Petite Verdot, Vignoles, Dolcetto, Mavasia Bianca, Nebbiola, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Franc, and Barbera.

There was some Shiraz, but it was replaced, as it didn't do very well.

The Viognier looked good, although crop can be light. Joe Fiola commented that BUD NECROSIS often occurs with this variety in the fall, and is generally not the result of frost or freeze in the late spring.

Pat noted his Grape Root Borer populations and control methods. I have not investigated this on our site, but plan to find out how to do this.

Joe Fiola of UMD gave a talk on vineyard management practices:
  • Tight-clustered variety prevention
    pinch off the bottom of the cluster before berry-touch (now). When it rains, the water will run out the bottom of the cluster instead of collecting inside the cluster and promoting mold development.
  • Bunch thinning
    Should be done just before veraison to get to final cropping levels. Drop all clusters on half-length shoots, as these will not ripen anyway.
  • Spraying
    pH of water can make a difference in efficacy. Read product labels for details. Need to test pH.
  • Nitrogen
    Vines use stored N up to bloom. Then must get it from the ground (or leaves via foliar fertilization). Bloom/post bloom is optimal time for N application. Petiole analysis is the best means of determining nutrient requirements in the vine.
  • Three Reasons for leaf pulling
    • 1) Ripen clusters
    • 2) The buds lowest on the shoots this year will be the fruiting shoots next year, but will only be fruitful if they don't get shaded this year.
    • 3) Airflow and sunshine inhibits disease conditions. There are two kinds of sunlight: Morning (cool) sun, and Afternoon (hot) sun. The cool morning sun is good for clusters, as it dries them quickly and does not heat or burn the clusters. Afternoon sun tends to keep the clusters warm longer, preventing development of character flavors, and can potentially burn the clusters. With this in mind, leaf-pulling to open the canopy and expose the clusters is a two-stage process. Leaves on the east side of the rows should be pulled 2 to 4 weeks post bloom, which is now. Leaves on the west side of the rows should be pulled just prior to veraison.
  • Canopy density
    A good rule of thumb: When looking through a row at someone on the other side, you should be able to see what color shirt they have on, but not be able to identify the person.
Next came a short MGGA business meeting.

Bruce Perrygo mentioned the grape growing survey results are available online at and includes variety recommendations.

Emily Johnson gave an update on the CPPP. Due to Homeland Security rules changes, there are certain pesticides that cannot be broken out of their packages for distribution. This means that a few products require individuals to purchase unreasonable quantities, unless some legal method of breaking up the packages can be found. The example given was Quintec, which comes in a ten-bottle package, but which a single bottle would do for one vineyard for an entire season.

Jan Ricki gave a treasurer update. There is grant money available from the state for grape growing related projects, but they have not recieved many proposals on how to spend it. Send in ideas.

Joe Fiola hosted organoleptic testing of varieties grown in the UMD test vineyard in Upper Marlboro. I sampled a very unusual Pinot Grigio. It had a fruity aroma and pronounced apple taste. While not what people think of this variety, Joe commented this style was quite common in Southern France and NW Italy. Ann DeMarsay of UMD gave a talk on bunch rots and passed out samples of common diseases.

Primary pathogens are things that can infect healthy grapes - only fungi can do this. Common ones are: Phomopsis, Black Rot, Botrytis, Ripe Rot, Bitter Rot, Macrophma Rot. Secondary pathogens require an entry point caused by a primary pathogen, mechanical injury, or wildlife damage (bird pecks). Management practices include: Planting resistant varieties, loose clusters, less vigorous, hybrids, natives. Good canopy mgmt - shoot thinning, hedging, leaf pulling, cluster thinning. 7-10 day spray schedule through post-bloom 10-14 day schedule thereafter, depending on disease pressure and weather. PM resistance is documented to FLINT after 15 - 20 total sprays. (I use this one and have about 6 total so far.) PM is becoming resistant to SI's (that's a class of fungicide, of which Nova is one. I use Nova intermittently.) Ben Beale of the Cooperative Extension Service gave a very good spraying demo, including different types of spraying equipment. Everything from backbacks to airblast sprayers. Demonstrated proper personal protective equipment and processes, and sprayer/tractor calibration. Pat Isle's sprayer was on display. He has a similar one to ours, but has modified it with a single verticle boom with three nozzles. Looked great. He pulls a 50 gallon tank with a 23 hp riding mower. I spoke one-on-one with Dr DeMarsey about our Tinta Cao vines that have fan leaves. I offered to send her pics of them and have done so. She mentioned that certain varieties of blueberries do well in the heat. I always thought they were more of a cold weather crop. She received her doctorate for research on blueberries, so she probably knows something about it.

That's it for now. If you made to the end of this message I commend you on your fortitude.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

High Wire Act

proofing concept vines reach the top wire
Connie's Post
Gerald took this shot right before i went to the HOW conference. the proofing vines have reached the top wire. soon, we will start working on weaving the wayward growth back to the wires and keeping the renegades from creeping on the ground. reweaving keeps the vines from attracting disease from the ground and being hit from the mower. plus, a general sense of discipline about the place is nice to maintain...

here is a shot that will give you an idea of the width between two of the vineyard rows. the second image is to show you the contrast of size between the 4 year old proofing vines and the starter viognier, on their second summer. how quickly they grow!

Monday, June 18, 2007

In verbis vini veritas?

Connie's Post
While i'm recovering from my mind exploding at the HOW conference (four new ideas to present to clients! one new product line to offer clients! creativity completely refreshed!) and the virginia beach art festival (three new fine art ideas! why am i so busy?!), i found this slate magazine article for your enjoyment:

Cherries, Berries, Asphalt and Jam. Why some wine writers talk that way by Mike Steinberger

i really enjoy mike's wine column and this article makes several interesting points. i come from the point of view that the simpler the explanation, the more truth there is in it. as i get older, i also understand in order to see the truth, there is usually more than one explanation. mike covers both of these statements in writing about wine writers with strength and humor. bon appetit!

gerald has taken many photos while i've been out, so the posting mania will begin again soon. stay tuned!

Monday, June 11, 2007

The New American Gothic: Irish Needed to Apply

Bernie and Kathleen pause from their labors inside the Vidal vineyard

Connie's Post:

Here's to the new American Gothic: gerald's father and sister working together to help establish a new addition to the vineyard. during the memorial day holiday, kathleen and i spent that saturday working in the vidal acre. she hoed 'round each newly planted vine—saving the plant having to compete with the weeds and in reward for her efforts, received several hard-won blisters. i carted off the remaining piles of debris and then picked off the inflorescence the new vines were trying so hard to put out. gerald's family pulls together and every bit of help is welcomed on the shoestring vineyard. that being said, it was a long hot day. next time i'll remember to bring my big floppy hat, too.

here, kathleen, our modern farm girl, sports the necessities for working the vidal acre: sturdy shoes; the trusty orange-topped hoe my parents gave me when i was 9 or 10; ineffective blister-preventing work gloves; the aforementioned big floppy hat, and a cell phone. the cell phone is critical for men to call the womenfolk, requesting lunch be picked up and also critical for women to call the menfolk, requesting boy1 bring them fresh, cool water. the shoestring vineyard does have a system of hierarchy and archetypes, no matter how i may rail against them when i feel they are applied to my direct disadvantage.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Start of the Season

the vines start their yearly growth
Connie's Post:
Here is the proofing acre, starting their summer growth. this picture was taken two weeks ago and now the shoots are long enough that gerald needs to train them to the first catch wire. that means he weaves the shoots so they grow upright. i wasn't at the vineyard last week as i was finishing up my freelance. this weekend, we have tae kwon do belt ceremonies and i go traveling for a graphic design conference—but i have plenty o' topics still left to blog and will try to catch up in the evening. gerald says he will take the camera when he leaves for the vineyard later today and he will get more shots for my return. while i'm excited about the new opportunities, i'm sad to miss time at the vineyard—i like seeing the place evolve with the seasons.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Fruit of the Hired Labor

from the clearing, popular boards

Connie's Post:
The hired clearing of the far field netted not only a new field for more vines, but also boards from the popular trees. the boards from popular trees are perfect for the barn as they last a long, long, time. while there were many types of trees, there wasn't many mature trees to harvest for boards, so most of the trees were hauled away for pulp wood. the value of the pulp wood pretty much paid for the hauling of all the trees away.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Rain Wish Granted

a perfect way to start home: knowing that rain had arrived

Connie's Post:
We could smell it. taste it. see it in the sky. our appetite for rain had been sharpened over the weeks of clouds building up, but nothing giving. in southern maryland, this is par for the course, but when you have a new acre of vidal giving it all that little vines can give—you just want to help them along a little. the vines didn't need much. some poor soil. check. some weeding. check. some rain. sigh.

gerald and his dad put in a good day's work on saturday. they thinned the shoots in the proofing acre and then gerald improved upon his handy work in the newly designed wash-up station. the boys stayed back in charlotte hall with their momma, as the freelance race was on. that evening, the talk was of rain, rain, rain.

with a sense of giddiness, i awoke this morning to the sound of a pleasant drizzle. what a good rain! misty and consistently putting moisture gently onto the ground. after weeks without rain, i had wished mightily for it but—if it could be delivered lightly, that would be great. no dirt-eroding deluge, please—and here, a wish granted. i can't tell you how pleasant it was: the fresh smell, the dampness, the light pattering sounds. we gathered our stuff, made a list of goods to replenish at charlotte hall (we owe you laundry and dishwater detergent, coffee and granola balls, lyrel), discussed upcoming and previous birthday plans, cleaned and packed for our journey back. it was another good weekend and a happy one, too.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Barry, Come Water Our Grapes

Barry's projected path. Image courtesy of the weather channel.

Connie's Post:
Note to mild manner tropical storms safely off of the atlantic coast: while we were not a big fan of ernesto, we wouldn't mind if a few of you passed by early in the season. please remember the vineyard is not open for ravaging tropical storms during the months of august and september. oh, and too much rough housing in the vineyards and we will have to ask you to leave. just saying. thanks.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Buds and Greens

tiny buds of different plants dot the fields of the vineyard

Connie's Post
As you walk about the farm, attending to your chores, you get to witness all kinds of small action. in the spring, it is little tiny buds like above. i love these little star-like flowers. there are also tiny purple flower lovelies and feathery stalks with flowers so tiny and so many it looks like a pink mist. new corn is sprouting in the rented fields in such neat rows it is as if the field is covered in a pin stripe suite of brown and pale greens. we even have the start of blackberry canes growing along the edges of the fields—a promising opportunity for the foraging momma and her boys. there are amazing bugs of every shape and color. the sleeping lizards have collected themselves from their winter sleep and are starting to explore. birds are giddy with love and collecting grubs for their babies. late spring is a wonderful thing.

Worthwhile Rituals

ger's friday nite snapshot: pate, glass of wine, blog posting and freelance.

Connie's Post:
I've probably remarked before that having a base camp with running water and wifi makes all the difference in productivity and quality of life on the shoestring vineyard. now, as you can see, life is quite pleasant and even luxurious. we go down friday, have a late night nosh, and i get caught up on the blog and get some freelance done. then its a good night's sleep and gerald gets up early in the morning, and heads over to work on the farm while the boys sleep and i get some more quality freelance time in. midmorning he stops by, picks us up and we work on farm tasks together until dusk. then its dinner —last week a delicious concoction whipped up by gerald's dad— and a relaxing evening. the next morning, gerald finishes vineyard chores and we then leave southern maryland for weekend to prepare for our upcoming work week and attend to our townie chores. its a busy life, sometimes hectic, but its also pretty cool to be part of building something larger and connected to the land.