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.