The Vineyard is ALIVE!

After what has been an interesting last 12 months [probably the understatement of the year], was it really that unexpected that bud break would occur 3 weeks earlier than it normally does? Do not get me wrong, I love 80 degree days in March, but from a vineyard managers point of view, that was just putting the foot on the accelerator.

Bud break at Keswick Vineyards normally occurs around the 10th of April, but this year we had Chardonnay break on March 23rd. WOW!
The growth cycle of a vine and vineyard begins with bud break in the spring and finishes with harvest in Autumn, leaf fall and then winter dormancy. It is during these winter months that we prune and regulate the buds, and therefore the crop levels, for the following growing season. The time the vine spends in these phases depends on a number of factors, but most importantly on the climate and the prevailing temperature.

The start of the cycle begins when the vine starts to bleed, when we see water being expelled from pruning cuts we make on the vine. An interesting fact is that a vine can bleed over 5 Liters of water!
Buds that have been protected during the winter start swelling and eventually open up, giving birth to new growth and shoots that will bear the fruit of the coming vintage.
The energy for the plant to do this is taken from carbohydrates that are stored in the roots and wood of the vine from the previous year.

Once shoots start to develop and the temperatures really start warming up, these shoots can grow 3cm in length per day!

Not all varieties bud at the same time though, so while our Chardonnay and Viognier are way advanced, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Verdot are taking their sweet time and are in no rush.

Admittedly, there is renewed optimism for the growing season following the challenging 2011, but with premature bud break comes the increased risk for spring time frost damage. This past Monday morning saw us touch temperatures of 31 degrees, which meant a very early start to the day turning on wind machines, running frost dragons and monitoring temperatures throughout our 43 acres. In Virginia, we can get a spring frost right up the second week of May, so we need to be on our toes and use all means necessary to prevent that from happening should it occur.

40-80 days post bud break, we will start seeing flowering, whereby pollination and fertilization of the grapevine takes place, followed immediately by fruit set. At that point we will be able to determine the crop size we can expect for 2012.
This is one of the most beautiful times of the year in the vineyard bus sometimes also the most stressful, protecting your vineyard against everything that mother nature can throw your way. To be honest, she kicked my backside last year – but I am determined not to let that happen again!

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this wonderful weather and I look forward to seeing you at the winery. Back to the vineyard to finish my favorite varietal NORTON! BLAH

Stephen
Winemaker
Keswick Vineyards
www.keswickvineyards.com

If you would like to learn more about viticulture, and our vineyard in particular, join me for our Earth Day Vineyard Tour April 22nd!
I will take you on a 1 1/2 mile educational walk through the vineyard to explain how soil types and elevations affect the flavor development of the vines, the different types of trellis systems and why we chose ours, frost dangers and how we handle that, pruning, diseases, discussion on varietals like Viognier and Norton and much more, all while you enjoy a taste of the wines made from blocks on the vineyard that you are standing in!
Lunch will be provided under our beautiful event tent where you will have a chance to meet the owners, Al & Cindy Schornberg, and learn about the history of Edgewood Estate.
Space is limited so reservations are required. From 11am – 1pm. The cost is $40 for Wine Club members, $50 for non-members. Rain date is scheduled for May 12th.

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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

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