Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Ucpoming Events

It has been a while since the last post as my daughters wedding has consumed most of my spare time this summer - not complaining though, as it was a fabulous way to spend time.

Soon I will provide some news and updates on the research vineyard itself - my attempt to break down by varieties and their performance in the first year.  For now though, just a few notes on some upcoming events.

September 7-
In conjunction with Burton City Daze, ALGGS will be selling breakfast sandwiches at the Gazebo in Burton Historical Park campground  in Burton 8AM to 10AM.  This was a successful fundraiser last year and now that the word is out about the fabulous breakfast (put together by the very talented Vivian Berry!) we expect it to be busier.

From 10AM to 12PM we will be providing tours of the research plot for any interested folks. You can come and ask questions, wander through or just look.

Lastly we will also be working with the Burton Learning Centre and serving a concession dinner (burgers, smokies etc) as well as chicken souvlaki and greek salad.  Dinner will be serving from 4PM to 8PM at the campground as well.  Please come out and support the event and make sure you stay for the beer garden and horseshoe tourney!

September 15
ALGGS members (Linda H and Jerry B) will be presenting tasting notes and wines for the Nakusp Soiree event (6PM to 9PM) at the Nakusp Community Hall.  Wine will be selected to pair with local chocolates and cheese.  Tickets are $30 each and for more information, contact the Nakusp Fall Fair.

September 21
Work Bee!  We will be having our last big work bee before winter.  A few items such as spreading the last of the mulch, tying vines, winterizing our "nursery" vines etc.  If you can make it, we will start around 9AM, with lunch and refreshments provided.

As you can see, a busy next few weeks.  Please come out and support in any way you can.  I should also note that we have a few wines left over to sell - but only until September 21 so get them quick!


Wednesday, 31 July 2013


The last few posts have really been all about our vines that we planted and a few hopes we have.  While planting was a really big chore and feels like it should be  the end of all our work, it is not.  In fact it is really only the beginning.  Volunteers have been quite busy since June with a number of chores and tasks.

Irrigation: we are a fairly damp climate, and hopefully once the vines have been established we will not need to irrigate too much, but now when they are young, we do.  We went with a drip system as it is the best method and pretty simply to install.  Built-in emitters spaced every 18" and providing 0.5 gallons of water per hour.
We broke the vineyard into three zones so it takes a full day to water it all.

Bark Mulch: Plenty of volunteers showed up on mulching day and it went surprisingly fast due to the assistance of small bobcat that was able to scoop and dump strategically along the rows. Thanks Allan and Barbara!  We ran out towards the end, so we still have a few more partial rows to finish off.  I fear the mulch chore will be a yearly event, but for now it provides great weed control and moisture retention.

Weeding/Mowing:  The mulch works really well, evident by comparing the areas without to area with it.  But it is not perfect, so weed control around the vines and mowing is an on-going chore.

Vineyard Maintenance: - as the vines grow they tend to bend, twist and attached to just about anything so we have to continually "tie" the vines up to our stakes to ensure we get a nice straight stock, growing where we want them to.  This is also an going chore, with some vines really taking off and others a little slower.  Out of the 900ish vines we planted only 6 failed to produce shoots, which is amazing success rate.

This year we are all about root development and less about vigour.

So far all look healthy and green with no nutrient or disease concerns.  It may be a bit biased to say, but is there anything more wonderful to look at then a healthy looking vineyard after three+ years of research and planning?

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Research Plot - Blattner Varieties

If you have been following along with the previous posts, there have been short discussions on 15 of the varieties we planted in our research plot.  The remaining 6 are part of the "Blattner" species, 3 white and 3 red.  This represents a new breed of grape that was created by Swiss grape geneticist Valentin Blattner by crossing Vinifera and other sub species.  The goal was to create a disease resistant plant and from all accounts this has been a success with varieties now grown in Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland, and Canada.  
The Blattner vines are really the domain of Omega Vines on Salt Spring Island and as they are quite new to vineyards, there is not a lot of information out there except what they have published.  Kudos to them for the great work.  

Petite Milo -  a complex cross of Cabernet Sauvignon, the American species Riperia and the Asian species Amurensis.  A very early ripening pink grape well suited for areas with high moisture periods. The grapes can achieve quite high sugar levels while retaining good acidity.
Epicure  - a complex cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and a number of Asian grape varieties. A mid season ripening white grape, with large clustered vines with small leaves and exceptional disease resistance. 

We also planted a new research white, simply called 48-05-49.  I tasted this before and if I recall it was quite similar to a viognier style. 

We planted Cab Libra, Labelle and another research type, 48-05-83.  All are early to mid-season ripening and with the same disease resistance consistent with the Blattner vines in general.  

That is what we planted.  Stay tuned over the next few years as we chart our progress with these varieties and offer tidbits of info that you may find interesting, useful or just laughable.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Research Plot - Vinifera and Hybrid Red Vareties

Okay It has been a while since my last post, but never the less here is a brief summary on some of the reds we planted.  We planted seven Vinifera and Hybrid types.  For those counting from the last post, that makes only 15 of the 21.  My next post will explain the remaining six "Blattner" types.

Baltica - a hybrid of four different species of grape VitisAmurensisLabruscaRiparia andVinifera.  Baltica ripens exceptionally early and is quite disease resistant, although it can suffer from post harvest powdery mildew in poor weather.

Baco Noir - a hybrid of Vinifera and Riparia with French origins.  An old species that dates back to to the late 1890's.  Originally brought to Canada in the 1950's, most of the vines were pulled out in the 1980s as part of a "vine pull" program.  Does quite well in cooler climates, with wine similar to a Pinot Noir.
Leon Millot - a hybrid of Vinifera and Riparia, created in early 1900's in Alsace, France.   Leon Millot ripens quite early, has good growth vigour and is highly resistant to fungal disease.  The grapes are quite small, making it difficult to harvest, but it can produce big flavour wines (compared to Syrah).  A relative to Marechal Foch.

Marquette - a complex hybrid, meaning many crosses of Vinifera and other Vitis species.   Really a new variety, only introduced in 2006.  Cold hardy, resistant to powdery mildew and black rot.  Produces a high sugar, moderate acid berry.  Some early wine entries have received rave reviews and we see this as a very promising red variety for the area.

Pinot Noir  - a Vinifera species.  We selected Clone 115 for our research as it consistently produces wines of impressive aroma, structure and balance from many different locations.  It tends to like cooler climates, but is fairly susceptible to most diseases, wind damage and frost.   Pinot is such a great wine we could not resist trying it in our research plot.  This vine is on root stock SO4, which makes it slightly more resistant to frost.

Regent - a hybrid of Vinifera and other Vitis species with German origins.  Has very good resistance to fungal diseases as well, but can susceptible to flower rot which can prevent fruit set if there is a lot of spring rains. Similar to Pinot Noir  in that it will require some management in the vineyard, but the potential it has might make it worth it.

Zweigelt -  a Vinifera species.  Developed as a cross between  Saint-Laurent and Blaufrankisch with German origins.  Zweigelt likes cooler temperatures and buds late so is ideal for areas with late spring frosts.  Personally a favourite red of mine that pairs real nice with turkey dinner.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Research Plot - Vinifera and Hybrid White Varieties

As noted in an early post, we selected 21 different varieties to plant in our research plot.  We planted eleven whites and below offers a brief explanation on the eight Vinifera and Hybrid varieties.  Most of the varieties we selected are suited for cooler climates, ripening anywhere from 850 to 1100 growing degree days (GDD), so we expect that they will flourish in our climate.  We also tried to select vines that were less susceptible to diseases.

Auxerrois - a Vitis Vinifera species.
Origins from France and considered a cool climate grape that ripens early   Not seen to often in the New World, but there a few places producing it in Canada (Gray Monk in Lake Country).  It has the same parentage as Chardonnay (Gouais Blanc and Pinot Noir), so I guess that makes then siblings

Chardonnay - a Vitis Vinifera species.  We selected Clone 76, originating from the Saone-et-loire department in France for our research plot.  This clone is a fairly consistent producer year in and year out, as well it prefers a cooler climate to helo enhance flavour.  While we tried to get "own" rooted vines for most of our research, this one came grafted onto root stock 101-14.

L'Acadia Blanc - A hybrid grape (many different Vitis genus involved) that was homegrown in the Niagara region in Canada back in 1953.  This is a very cold hardy variety that ripens early and is quite resistant to most diseases.  It has been planted quite a bit in the eastern provinces (Nova Scotia) and is often compared to a Sauvignon Blanc in taste.

Madeleine Angevine - "Mad Angie" is a Vitis Vinifera species, also with origins from France.  This is cool climate grape, ripens early and fairly resistance to a lot of diseases. It has very high yeilds and is known to be  used as a table grape too.  Is a cross between two grapes: Madeleine and ....Angevine.  Who would have guessed?

Madeleine Sylvaner - a Vitis Vinifera species with origins in Loire, France.  A cool climate grape that can ripen with as low as 825 GDD.  Very similar in flavour to Pinot Gris.

Ortega - A Vitis Vinifera cross between Muller Thurau and Siegerrebe and quite cold hardy.  It is reported to develop better character when grown in cooler climates (quite successful in the Shuswap area already).   This grape produces quite well and has a naturally high sugar content so it has been used for dessert wines as well.

Osceolo Muscat - an American hybrid (we think) that is grown a lot in cold climates (Quebec for one). Ripens very early so great for short seasons.  Very similar to a Muscat wine

Siegerrebbe - A Vitis Vinifera species with origins in Germany.  It is a cross between Madeleine Angevine and Gew├╝rztraminer.  This grape also prefer cooler climates, buds late (no worry of late frosts) and ripens very early.  We expect it to produce quite well, and possibly be a flagship variety for the area.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

2012 Climate Data

In 2011 ALGGS volunteers began installing temperature data loggers throughout the Arrow Lakes valley.  This was the first step in our grape vine research - determining if our temperature can support wine grape production.  We wanted a unit that was simple to set up, relatively inexpensive, fairly accurate and with a 3 to 5 year battery life.  After a bit of research we settled on the HOBO Pro2 units, as they seemed to have a proven track record in similar projects. This study will run for 3 to 5 years which should give us enough of a data profile to make a conclusion with.

We installed nearly 40 units in the valley throughout 2011, so 2012 marked the first year of full data we can look at.  Our growing season is calculated from April 1 to October 31 and the specific data we are concerned about is "frost free days" (FFD) and "growing degree days" (GDD).

GDD is a measure of heat accumulation used to predict plant  development rates such as the date that crop will reach maturity.  GDD is calculated by taking the average of the daily maximum and minimum temperatures minus a base temperature, (in our case 10 °C).  Unfortunately the downside of the HOBO Pro2, is that it over inflates the GDD number and thus we had to calculate it all by hand - ugh.  Thanks Mary Ellen Harris for all the work she did to calculate this for us!

FFD are exactly that - number of days from the last spring frost to the first fall frost.

We broke our data into four regional sections: Nakusp, Arrow Park (east and west), Burton, Fauquier/Needles and calculated an average for each region:

                                   GDD             FFD
Nakusp                        976               146
Arrow Park                  973              144
Burton                         1060             144
Fauquier/Needles        1145             143

Valley Average          1039              144

What do the numbers mean? By comparison:

Summerland               1333             *190
Osoyoos                     1545             *195

* No data for 2012 yet, but an average over the past few years.

We are not the Okanagan, but we knew that,  And we are not going to try and grow the same grapes as they do either. Most of the varieties we have selected will need about  900 to 1000 GDD to reach maturity and need around 130-135 FFD.  2012 was a very cool spring, so we expect the numbers to increase a bit over the years, but overall positive numbers for the varieties we selected for our research plot. 

Saturday, 8 June 2013

It's a Vineyard!

On January 15, 2010  a meeting was held in Nakusp to discuss the possibility of growing grapes in the Arrow Lakes region.

On June 1, 2013 - 1,233 days, 50+ meetings and countless volunteer hours later, the first vine was planted in our research plot.  By the end of the day, nearly 900 vines encompassing 21 different varieties were planted.

A crew of 13 volunteers dug, watered, planted, watered - dug, watered, planted, watered - and on and on throughout the day (eventually the day ended and we "watered" ourselves with some wine from Jody's vineyard).  The work was so exciting we secured two new members on the spot.  Welcome aboard Brent (from Nakusp) and Scott (all the way up from Nelson to help!)  A big thanks to all the volunteers who showed up to help.  As always I cannot say enough to express the thanks to each of you who sacrificed the day.

Each vine planted was supported with a bamboo stake and surrounded by a juice carton.  These cartons are fairly typical in the grape world as they help provide a bit of mini greenhouse effect on young vines, as well as provide some protection from the mulch and mowing.

Anybody ever try Arnold Palmer Raspberry Ice Tee?  Did not think so, which would explain why there were so many unused cartons available!  Colourful enough, and yes for the obsessive crowd, all are orientated in the same direction.

Each of the 21 rows contain an single variety and over the next few weeks I will try to post a short explanation of each variety and our reason for selecting it.   All varieties were selected for our specific climate and growing conditions, so we are confident there will be some success.

The day was long, hard on the knees and back and tiring.  It may have been a long road to get to this point, but even as the last vine was planted, we were all still smiling.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Spring Wine Up!

In partnership with the Burton Learning Center, ALGGS presented a wine tasting course on May 4 at the Burton Community Hall.  The course focused on beginner tasting techniques and food pairing for white wines.  The course was presented by Linda Harrop and Jerry Botti who opted to deliver the course outdoors, much to the delight of the 11 attendees.  Summer is trying to push through so we must make the best of it when it does.

The tasting featured three New World wines, Australian Chardonnay, Chilean Sauvignon Blanc and Californian Gew├╝rztraminer and, as a taste comparison, an Old World Chardonnay from the Cote d'Or region in Burgundy, France.

It was amazing to watch and listen as everybody discussed the bouquet or taste and hear the descriptions become more in-depth as the afternoon progressed (well, maybe that was the wine talking).  And of course watching someone slurp in air while they have wine in their mouth is always entertaining!

With discussions on white wine making, old world vs new world wines and stemware thrown in for good measure, the afternoon proved to be a great success. Look for a introductory red wine tasting and food pairing this fall.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Anchor Post Installation

It ha been a busy past few weekends for ALGGS volunteers.  April 22 saw Joel Henschke and Bob Parkinson and his tractor, discing and leveling out the plot area.   Jody Scott and myself followed on to measure out the rows widths and end posts in anticipation of installation.  Our test plot size was expected to be about 160'x200', and oh, wait what?  Hmmm somewhere along the way we only made the plot 160'x140'!   So a quick meeting of the minds and Sterling Simpson volunteering his time and equipment, some additional space was tilled and by evening of May 3 we had succesfully expanded our plot to 185' length.  Not the 200' we had thought, but hey what is volunteer labour without a few bumbs along the way.

That set up  May 4 when Ron Volansky, arrived with Jody in the morning with skidster equipment, including a post pounder and auger attachements.  Jerry bailed just before lunch to set for the Spring Wine Up (which you can read about later) but Joel arrirrive after lunch and by mid afternoon all 42 end posts and anchors were installed. 
Joel had favricated an attachment for the skidster and the anchors so all could be installed by machine and not man - great time/work saver!

Our soil suffered from some compaction, so to make it easier for the new vines, we have opted to auger through the compaction with a 12" auger. This will allow the roots to grow and establish themselves a bit easier.   We finished the day about 6PM, with still more drilling to complete but we were hot, tired, dusty, and very thirsty.  To the deck at Harrops - cold refreshments were calling!

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Deer Fencing and Sign Posting

Welcome to the first blog for Arrow Lakes Grape Growers Society (ALGGS).  Rather then discuss the details of what ALGGS is all about, Please visit our website -  You can find all sorts of information there and be sure to check back regularly as we update and add features.

Our big news this month was installing our deer fencing around our research plot and placing our sign. April 6 saw rain, hail, wind, a little sunshine and, by 09:00hrs, 10 hardy volunteers ready to start  working.

The installation of the fencing was coordinated by Joel Henschke, who developed the plan and organized the work load to the volunteers.

We utilized the existing fence system, simply adding extensions boards to the posts and then applying the deer fencing.  In this manner we were able to get the fence height between 9 and 10 feet and save a lot of work and expense of installing new posts.

 The installation of the signs was coordinated by Linda Harrop, who had previously secured the signs from a local sign maker.  The signs were placed on the corner of the research plot, facing both north and south, and highly visible from Highway 6.

There was a quick lunch break where everyone was able to dry off a bit and fill up on hot potato soup, smokies, salad, and coffee. We wrapped up the work around 3:30, just as mother nature kicked it into high gear.  The day concluded with the crew enjoying some fine wine from winemakers Jody Scott and Linda Harrop. In total the volunteers on this day spent 60 plus person hours in addition to all the work spent by Joel and Linda and the rest of the crew organizing the day.

A big thanks again to all the volunteers.

Now onto the next task.....