After harvest and a very busy spring, summer, and fall, the "wine growers" collapse into a much needed rest. God gave farmers seasons for a reason. It is like working six days and resting on the Sabbath. Winter is a time of relative stillness, tranquility, and slumber. We sit by the fire, tend the animals, and tend the developing wines in the winery. Cold and short days don't allow for much outside work.
During the summer, the vines are pouring their all into the fruit. After harvest, the vines can focus their energy on other important things. The time between harvest and the first frost is critical for the upcoming year's success. The leaves are still large and green during this period. They are soaking up vital energy from the sun. Photosynthesis is happening. The trunks send down many new roots (Root Rush) which are absorbing nutrients and water from the soil. Like a bear storing up fat for the winter hibernation, the vines are doing the same. That is why we don't prune grape vines in the fall. They need every leaf possible for creating these vital energy stores. It is a race against time to build up as many sugars and carbs as possible before the first frost.
After the frost, the leaves on the vines turn brown and fall off. Now something very special happens. The sugars, carbohydrates, and water that are stored in the woody parts of the vine begin to act like antifreeze in the plant. Each grape varietal is different, but many can withstand temps to 12 degrees and below without freeze damage.
So, a wise wine grower waits as long as possible to prune in the winter. We don't want to disturb those precious stores of energy and built in cold protection. The vines "weep" some of this sweet water after pruning. Pruning also tends to encourage new spring buds (bud break). We don't want bud break to occur until we are fairly certain that a hard frost is unlikely. In our vineyards at Trillium we prune around mid March, because bud break usually begins around April 1st. At bud break the plant calls on its stores of energy to produce buds and the lush and rapid spring growth. Flowers follow and then the grapes. Like a toddler, the vines wake up running and need all the energy they can get.
The vines and the vineyard workers have about another month before the outside work, busy schedules, and long days begin again. Rest well and sweet dreams!
The grapes are picked, the juice is pressed, and miracles are happening in the tanks. We should be bottling in February and March.
We, as always, depend on friends to help us through this very busy season in our lives. Because of the intense and plentiful rain this year, maintaining healthy grapes was a challenge. Many thanks go out to our vineyard team: Larry M., Larry B., David, and Claire. They persevered, kept the fungal diseases at bay, and brought in a plentiful crop. It was a daunting task.
We were rushing to get the grapes harvested in between thunderstorms, and many other friends showed up and worked hard to bring in the crop. There is a danger in too much rain at the end stages of grape maturation. The vines can drink too much water, and the grapes can either become diluted in flavors and sugars or split and rot. Sunny and Jeremy's church friends arrived like saints on the wind, picking furiously until their clothes were soaked with rain and sweat.
We have four other sister vineyards from whom we purchase grapes locally, and they were all doing the same thing. It was an extended, exhausting and somewhat disappointing harvest season for all of us. Many clusters of grapes were cut and dropped to the ground, useless to process, due to rot. But, we persevered.
Next came the pressing of the grapes. It is a joyful thing to see the juice flowing! After the juice is pressed, Bruce hauls it down the road from the vineyard to our winery and begins the cold settling and fermentation.
The winery smells delightful in the beginning stages of fermentation...a lot like fruity, yeasty bread. The bubbling froth never ceases to amaze me. It is alive! Bruce is putting all those chemistry classes during pharmacy school to good work. He is faithfully taking samples and running the tests on them. He has commented that if he knew back then how much fun he would have with chemistry after he retired, he would have enjoyed those classes a whole lot more. Our Father is good to prepare us for things that we never dream about at the time.
Veraison is the term used for the beginning of ripening when the color of the grapes begin to change. The white grapes change from matte green to a lustrous, translucent gold, and the red clusters are a kaleidoscope of green, pink, purple, and blue.
Veraison 2017 is just beginning in the vineyards of Trillium. Blanc du Bois is always first, but LeNoir has already begun the metamorphosis as well. Its clusters are now a bluish green...the first step toward true veraison. Veraison is the hope for harvest. It is the sign that in about three to four weeks, the grapes will be ready for picking. It is the promise that we will soon see the fruits of our labor.
It is appropriate that as true veraison is happening in the vineyard, a different type of veraison is happening for our business. For five years, we have prayed, dreamed, planned, and worked. And, we are about to share the fruits of our labor with you. The tasting room is ready. We will open as soon as we receive our labels which are being printed now.
The wine from our own grapes will not be ready until November/December. So, in order to be able to open the tasting room sooner, Bruce and I went to some friends in Texas and purchased some of their wine in bulk. We brought it home in a refrigerated truck, gave it a few tweaks to make it our own, and will finish bottling it this week. Our friends live on the high plains of Texas, and they are able to grow grape varietals that are different from ours. Some of the varietals you will know and recognize, and some will be new to you. A few of you have tasted the wine and chosen your favorites. We already have a waiting list; the feedback has been very encouraging! You can rest assured that these grapes were grown with the same loving care that we give our own and that the wine was made by a family who works well together toward a common goal. Their wine, like ours, is a labor of love.
God gives us hope, promises and glimpses of things to come in many different ways. Veraison is a beautiful, visual example.