reflections on my 2nd pilgrimage to Linden Vineyard.
Jan 2004 I visited Linden Vineyard for the first time, attending a seminar on starting a vineyard. Stretching up the side of a mountain in the Virginia Blue Ridge, it's a picturesque place. The entrance is off a small road at the base of the mountain. You wind your way up the long drive through row upon row of vines. It's not one series of rows lined up the side of the mountain, but rather plots of rows, arranged in every direction according to the contours of the earth and the particular variety of vine and trellis system implemented. Jim Law, the owner, grower, and wine maker, is a Virginia viticulture pioneer whose vineyard reflects his work at experimenting with all nature of variables in his efforts to learn as much about producing the highest quality wine the combination of land, climate, and vine can offer. About half way up the mountain sits his winery/tasting house, elegant in it's simplicity of rough hewn support beams and open, airy space. It's an excellent setting to sample wines without distracting accessories, yet still offers you one of the most picturesque overlooks you'll find along the Blue Ridge mountains.
The purpose for the current trip was to attend another seminar by Jim Law: Established Vineyard Management.
It was a fantastic day to be in a vineyard. A weather front had come through the previous day and pushed out all the heat and humidity, making the day breezy, warm, and dry with lots of sunshine and some puffy clouds. A lot of the day was spent inside listening to lectures on vineyard management, but we did make two expeditions into the vineyard for some 'live action' teaching.
Walking into the classroom, Jim had a white board at the front with one word written on it: balance.
Everything about the seminar flowed from this one key concept: The vine must be in balance to produce the best grapes.
the rest of this message are my notes and memories from the seminar...
Europeans achieve balance through experience. They have literally thousands of years of experience figuring out which varieties grow best in a particular area, at a specified spacing, using a certain training system, and with some amount of fertilizer, etc, etc. In dry areas like California and Chile, balance is achieved through controlling water. Turn the water on and the vines grow. Turn it off and they stop growing.
The Eastern U.S. does not have a depth of experience to draw upon. Nor, with the summer and autumn storms, can we control water to any great extent. There is not enough experience to really know what works best. We are all pioneers.
How Vines Grow:
Sink/Source = Vines have Sources of energy production and Sinks of energy expenditure.
Sinks = Grapes, New leaves, Old leaves (over 60 days), interior leaves. All take energy away from the vine and grapes.
Source = Healthy, mature leaves.
In an ideal world, vines should stop growing at veraision and put energy into ripening grapes.
a.m. vineyard tour, remembered notes...
Leaf pulling and its relationship to wine structure:
white wine structure comes from the acids. Sunlight reduces acids in grapes. No leaf pulling on western side of vine rows.
red wine structure is in the tannins. Sunlight increases tannins and complexity. Pull leaves from both sides of the rows (but not at the same time).
Spraying for Downy Mildew, Powdery Mildew, and Black Rot: Clusters are susceptible for about 4=6 weeks after flowering, then immune. Has to do with cell maturity. Same applies to 4 week old leaves.
Competition: Vigor can be controlled through weed competition and red dwarf fescue (grown in area under vine rows).
Soil: Maybe "perfect" soil isn't so perfect. If pH is a bit off, but it keeps the vines from being too vigorous, is it a bad thing?
Lunch = sampled several offerings and settled on a glass of Seyval Blanc to go with my Sheetz cold cut hogie. In retrospect, probably should have gone with a red. The guy pouring my samples told me a fascinating story about how up until the 1970's all wines were blends of different varieties because it's nearly impossible to produce a 'complete' wine from a single grape variety. Robert Mondavi decided to market single variety wines, I guess in an attempt to differentiate his wine from the competition. The strategy caught on like wild fire and now people are more familiar and comfortable with varietal wines than blends. Recently, in a masterful twist of marketing genius, Mondavi has begun introducing the wine consuming public to his new premium "blends".
Canopy Management Calendar:
Winter pruning: Most labor intensive activity. 30=40 hours per acre. Cane pruning and Cordon pruning. Five years ago, Linden was all Cordon pruned. Today almost all of the vines are cane pruned. Cane pruning inhibits Phomopsis, which develops in old wood (cordons) and over 20=25 years reduces vine yield and eventually kills the vine. Cane pruning also produces more fruit and clusters, which might be good or might not. It's also more labor intensive than Cordon pruning. Vines have apical dominance, which means they like to grow from the ends. On a cane pruned vine this means that shoots will generally grow shoots at the end of the cane and near the trunk, leaving the middle of the cane empty. The longer the cane, the more empty space. Generally canes
Dormant Tying (for cane pruned vines): Attach cane to cordon wire.
Shoot thinning: May, when vines are 4=6 inches. Jim leaves 2=2.5 shoots per foot.
Shoot Positioning: Jim has 1st catch wire at 8". Uses a single wire (rather than two wires with the vines fed between them) and secures the shoots to the wire with tape. Doing this can really 'set' the vine and make future positioning much easier.
Leaf Pulling: Pull disease susceptible varieties first.
Hedging: When shoots are 2' above the top wire. The idea is to have about 4 feet of vertical canopy.
Cluster thinning: End of Jun/Early July. Also called "green harvest". Do again at veraision to remove unevenly ripening clusters. Remove 'secondary crop' growing on lateral shoots higher in the canopy.
Grape/wine quality and quantity:
At low quantity (<= 1 ton per acre) wine quality is low. Increasing harvest quant increases quality up to a point, beyond which quality begins to decline. In August, grape growers in Europe go on vacation. At that point the grapes are ripening, the vines have stopped growing, and there's nothing left to do but wait for harvest.
Weeds: Good for competition to control vigor. Good for biodiversity: Maintain predators. Bad if they grow too high. Bad for new vines that do not have established root systems. Chickweed: low cover that competes with other weeds. Chokes them out, then dies midsummer. Crab Grass: Takes up water to shut down vine when you want it to stop growing.
Post emergents: Gramaxone or RoundUp in a back pack sprayer. Pre emergents: apply late winter. Being used less and less because of long term effects on soil structure. Jim no longer uses. Saw soil changes he did not like.
Diseases DM = active when dry, likes heat. PM = Wet weather, 60=80 degrees. BL = Wet weather , 60=80 degrees. takes 7=10 days to see. Fungicide classes Systemic/curative = Strobies: absorbed by vine. protection for 14 days. Does not rinse off after rain. Resistance problems: 15 sprays max. Tank mix with other products to prevent resistance. Critical time: late May to mid July. Jim does not use Strobies due to disease resistance in his vineyard. Nova and Elite = systemics vs PM, BR< Manzate = DM. NOT a systemic. Will wash off. Sulfur = PM. Mixed with Nova/Elite for resistance. not a systemic as well. Prophyte = Systemic with 96 hour kickback. (Gets rid of infections started 96 hours prior to spray). Use after a rain event for kickback. Mix with non systemic for resistance. Grapes: Susceptible to PM for at least 6 weeks after flowering, BR 4 weeks.
Leaves: Older leaves become resistant. New leaves in mid/late june are important during ripening. PM and DM can wipe out a vineyard. Best disease control article is online at U Cornell by Wayne Wilcox PM is hardest to control, use 'big guns'. DM is trouble in wet years. BL not hard to control. Botrytis = Grapes become MORE susceptible as they ripen. Likes WET and COOL conditions Sour Rot = secondary infections. smells like vinegar. thin skinned grapes susceptible. Likes WET and WARM weather. Bot spray at cluster close. Grapevine Yellows = trx'd by a leaf hopper. Not controllable. Site specific.
European Red Mites = populations stay low without spraying. Will boom when insecticides are sprayed, kills their predators. Cutworms/Flea Beetles = feed on swelling buds. Scout for pockets of damage. Not a problem most years. Grape Berry Moth = Grub burrows into grapes right after flowering. Several generations a season. Mainly vineyards by woods. Causes one or two berries in a cluster to rot. INTREPID controls GBM specifically. Site specific problem. Pierce's Disease = Bacteria trx'd by leaf hopper. Cannot survive cold winters Grape Root Borer = Unknown if it's a big problem. Larve feed for 2 years on roots. Japanese Beetles = Spray according to damage, not populations. Young vineyards more susceptible. Soil Optimal pH for growth is 6.0=6.5. But do you want optimal growth on a vigorous site? Nitrogen = No test available for soil. Need to test plants via petiole analysis. Potassium = can make high pH, high vegetative taste in wine. Magnesium = Hi K inhibits Mg pickup in vines. Wild plants can be soil indicators: Broom Sage means low pH, etc.
ok. That's about it for now. Sorry for the plethora of equals sign usage. My keypad is missing the hyphen key.