A vineyard update

Morning Everybody.

I hope you had a wonderful Easter and enjoyed the beautiful weather from yesterday.

All this is of course great for the vineyard, warm temperatures with plenty of sunshine, enough rain to support growth and a little bit of wind on the property to dry things out. We are starting to see some pretty serious shoot growth with the Chardonnay shoots already at 6 inches or so. Not all of the buds have broken yet, Norton and Cabernet Sauvignon have yet to break but with 80 degree days forecasted, I would imagine we will see them break towards the end of the week.

Viognier during bud break

As of yet, we have only found one climbing cut worm which is great news and as such I have not even bothered to spray for them which is quite unusual for our vineyard. Talking of spraying though, we have started with a light fungicide spray, all to control Powdery Mildew, Black Rot and Downy Mildew. Our spray regiment is roughly every 10-12 days, alternating different sprays, controlling all the various pests, and diseases that I expect we will see during the course of the growing season.

Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that affects a wide range of plants; and are caused by many different species of fungi in the order Erysiphales. It is one of the easier diseases to spot, as its symptoms are quite distinctive. Infected plants display white powdery spots on the leaves and stems. The lower leaves are the most affected, but the mildew can appear on any above-ground part of the plant. As the disease progresses, the spots get larger and denser as large numbers of asexual spores are formed, and the mildew may spread up and down the length of the plant.

Downy mildew refers to any of several types of oomycete microbes that are obligate parasites of plants. Downy mildews exclusively belong to Peronosporacae.

The most exciting part of this growth stage is that we can already the tiny grape clusters.

With no immediate threat of frost and all the buds looking fruitful, we are off to a great start in the vineyard, hopefully this spells the start of what will be another fantastic harvest in the state of Virginia.

Cheers

Stephen

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The Verdejo is here

I love releasing a new wine to the public, after all the joy of wine is being able to share it with people. Tomorrow marks the official release of our new 2010 Verdejo, coinciding with Semana Santa [or holy week in Spain]. Normally found in the Rueda region of Spain, Verdejo has done surprisingly well in the climate of Virginia, but this grape has not always been a favorite at Keswick Vineyards.

Up until the 2006 harvest, the fruit was sold as we did not believe it made wines of a superior quality, but as luck would have it, the Verdejo survived a horrendous frost and since the Viognier was hardest hit, we decided to keep the fruit to make wine as we knew we would be short.

The juice reminded me a lot of Sauvignon Blanc, lots of acid, lower sugar levels and greener flavors of melon, pear and apple. And that is how I decided to make it: cold fermentation in stainless steel tanks, preserving the natural acidity by inhibiting  secondary fermentation and ensuring the wine is bone dry. We have played around with various percentages of Viognier to add some brightness in terms of aroma but resisted that temptation in 2010 and only blended 3% of Viognier into the final blend.

This wine has acid as sharp as a razor blade and flavors greener than Dublin on St Patrick’s Day. Apples and grapefruit flavors are dominant with underlying minerality creating a wine that is a perfect accompaniment to shellfish and a variety of salads, lthough quite enjoyable on its own in the sun. With only 221 cases made, this wine promises to sell out quickly so come on by and get it while you can!

I have to give a special mention to Sandy Dowling [our book keeper] who has long preached the quality of our Verdejo. She must know what she is talking about as the 2010 Verdejo has just been awarded a platinum medal at the San Diego International Wine Competition [given to less than 4% of the total wines entered].

As a side note, I did want to point out subtle changes we have made to our packaging. The 2010 Verdejo is bottled with what will be our new label and the bottle we are using is 200 grams lighter than the previous bottles which should minimize our carbon footprint.

Other than that, the wine is hopefully everything you have come to expect from our Verdejo, a great bottle of wine that is perfect for this time of year.

I hope you enjoy drinking it as much as I enjoyed making it

Cheers

Stephen

Keswick Vineyards

The Vineyard is Alive

It is so good to be back. After travels to England, Germany and South Africa [which was amazing], it is great to be back on the farm during what is the most exciting time [other than harvest]

Bud Break

Winter has been fairly moderate to say the least with some days reaching mid 70’s sometimes even the low 80’s. I have to admit I was fairly nervous being so far away as I would have put all my money on bud break commencing a lot earlier than normal, which for us is around April 10th. But snow and cooler temperatures set in and we are back on track and right on schedule.

But what exactly is bud break?

Well it is the first step of the annual growth cycle of a vine. The start of the cycle is signaled by the bleeding of the vine. This occurs when osmotic forces push water from the root system through the cuts from the pruning. Vines can bleed up to 1.5 Gallons.

Tiny buds [which have remained dormant during winter] use the carbohydrate reserves stored in the wood and start producing shoots. Within the bud there are normally three primordial shoots.  The shoots produce leaves and through the process of photosynthesis, produce energy to facilitate growth. With warm temperatures these shoots can grow almost one inch in a single day.

But these young shoots are extremely fragile and in this part of the world, very susceptible to frost damage which can occur up to Mid May. We have experienced our fair share of crop loss due to Frost, with our Viognier especially hard hit in recent years. We have taken every possible precaution for this eventuality. Our wind machines are ready to go, bales of straw are ready to be lit, and if there is anything we can do to prevent it, we will. Unfortunately [as was the case in 2007] with temperatures reaching 17 degrees, there is not much one is able to do.

Frost is only one potential hazard at this time of the year. Bud break also brings the threat of bud damage by the climbing cutworm. The name “cutworm” is applied to a large number of larvae of lepidopterous species. The moths are night flyers while the larvae are night feeders, with both stages hiding through the day. These cutworm feed on the young buds resulting in the loss of primary and sometimes secondary buds so early season control is important.

So far so good, no sings of cutworm damage; and with warmer temperatures being forecasted over the next 2 weeks we are in pretty good shape starting the 2011 growing season.  AS I write this, the rain starts belting down and the thunder is deafening, nicely done Stephen

Next Post – A video talking about our new 2010 Verdejo, set to makes its tasting room debut on Saturday.

Cheers

Stephen

Keswick Vineyards