We were interested in Minimal Pruning as a technique for managing grapes because it promised to reduce labor time and costs without reducing quality or yield. We initially trained an acre of our Chardonnay to the Smart-Dyson Double Curtain VSP system and trained the remaining acres to a Minimal Prune system. We purchased a tractor-mounted hedger (manufactured locally by RES Equipment) to “prune” the Minimal Prune acres and managed the Smart-Dyson system in the traditional way. Dormant pruning the SD acre took a week and shoot positioning, moving catch-wires, canopy separation, shoot thinning, leaf pulling, etc and took much more time during the growing season. In the MP acres, we use the hedger for dormant pruning, shoot thinning, leaf removal, and cluster thinning. After 10 years of working with both systems, we saw no difference in quality, yield or disease pressure. The only difference was in labor time and cost. The MP system was “minimal” in terms of labor. We decided to convert the SD acre to MP at that point and now manage the whole vineyard using the Minimal Prune system. The MP system lets the vines reach their own balance of vigor and fruitfulness. The permanent woody structure allows for more carbohydrate storage during the winter and gives the vines a boost when they come out of dormancy. The MP system produces more and smaller clusters with smaller berries which increases the skin to juice ratio. That higher ratio lets the varietal character and complexity come through in the finished wines. We’ve been very happy with our decision and the vines seem to agree!
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Notes From the Edge
Harvest 2017 is finished and we are deep into making the extraordinary everyday wine that you all love. We picked and processed 7 tons of grapes in 3 weeks!
Leon Millot- 2403 lbs
Chardonnay- 10,094 lbs
Pinot Noir- 3431 lbs
We are doing a “harvest series” of videos. They document various processes of the harvest season at the vineyard. They are available for viewing on our FaceBook Page and through our new YouTube channel. Share them with friends and follow us for more videos to come!
Solar Eclipse Weekend is almost here! Forest Edge Vineyard is not quite in zone of totality, only 99.97. We are open for tasting before and after the event. The Tasting Room will be open Friday, Aug 18 12-5 and Monday, Aug 21 12-5, in addition to our regular Saturday & Sunday hours. For more activities download your Eclipse Passport from http://www.mthoodterritory.com/solareclipse
Do you have family and friends visiting? Looking for something to do? Take them wine tasting to a local winery. Our Tasting Room is open Sat & Sun 12-5. We are also available other times by appointment. Currently we are tasting 2012 & 2014 Chardonnay, 2014 Pinot Noir, 2014 Leon Millot, 2014 Sucre Chardonnay and 2013 Forest Glow. Come enjoy some wine with us!
We attended a tasting seminar that featured Oregon Chardonnay. The seminar was MC’d by local wine writer Katherine Cole. She posited the suggestion that as we tasted, we might think about Correlation and Causality. I was particularly intrigued by her Correlation/Causality suggestion. I’m not sure it was directly addressed and she didn’t have time to expand on the notion. But I’ve been puzzling on it since then. I think what we’re dealing with is Terroir.
Tasting through the wines and listening to the winemakers talk about their various processes I would have to agree with a wine writer from San Francisco. He said while there were differences there was a greater stylistic similarity. If we limit our definition of Terroir to the physical environment of the vine—soil type, slope, microclimate, etc. we could correlate the differences in Terroir to the differences in the wines. But how to explain the stylistic similarity? What causes that?
Maybe we need a broader definition of Terroir. One of the best definitions of Terroir I’ve run across is from Stefano Poni. He says, “Terroir is the ecology of a wine. The total, interrelated environment wherein a grapevine is cultivated for the purpose of making wine. Key factors include, but are not limited to, cultivar, soil, climate, vineyard location, planting density, training system, pruning philosophy and cultural and social milieu wherein the whole enterprise takes place.” Poni’s definition lets us correlate both the differences and the similarities in the Chardonnays we tasted. Cultivar, soil, vineyard location, etc. can account for the differences and some of the similarities in the various wines. But I think it’s the cultural and social mileu within which the winemaking takes place that explains the greater stylistic similarity in the wines. I would argue that it’s the spirit of sharing, cooperation and mentoring that still takes place here in the Oregon wine industry that causes the stylistic similarity.
We’ve been growing Chardonnay for 25 plus years and making wine for nearly as long. I think our Chardonnay shares the stylistic similarity we tasted in the presented wines–an Oregon-style Chardonnay. Though as with all the growers and winemakers we have our differences, it was that similarity that led me to meditate on Cole’s Correlation/Causality notion. I think Terroir, as defined by Stefano Poni, is what correlates cause and effect. Try some Oregon Chardonnay and see if you agree.
What’s that old Murphy’s Law?What can go wrong will go wrong.
The Leon Millot harvest was nearly ideal and the winemaking went smoothly. The wine is currently going through Malolactic Fermentation. So what about Murphy’s Law?
Our Chardonnay and Pinot Noir were ripening in a timely manner and the weather continued in our favor. The labor contractor we’ve been working with for more than ten years assured us we would have a crew on Thursday–the last day of our amazing string of warm, dry weather. Thursday morning came and went with no sign of a crew. We weren’t too worried since the crew had sometimes come late in the past. If the vineyard they were picking at before ours had more grapes than estimated, we assumed the crew would finish picking there before they came here. I put in a call to our labor contractor–and left a message to check on the status of the crew.
We had friends coming to help monitor the picking totes for MOG. MOG is “material other than grapes”. That can include leaves, gloves, pruning shears, hats, water bottles, etc. Since the crew wasn’t here, our friends volunteered to pick while we waited for the crew to show up. After leaving several more voice mails for our contractor, with no response, we getting more and more concerned. “The Rain” was forecast to start Friday. By “Rain” I mean the beginning of our rainy season here in the Northwest. Our concern was that while the fruit was still in good shape, there was enough disease pressure in the vineyard, that several days of rain might cause the mildew and botrytis to explode. Despite more voice mails our contractor wouldn’t return our phone calls.
We put out an email to our friends and supporters explaining the situation and asking for picking help as people were able. We had a good number of friend respond, but as predicted, the “Rain” began Friday. We picked in the rain with our intrepid friends and were making progress. One of our fellow grape growers responded to our plight and tried to get his crew come pick our grapes on Friday. We were hopeful they would make it, but after picking at another vineyard in the morning, they decided they were too wet and cold to pick any more that day. Our friend tried to arrange for the crew to come on Saturday. Once again our hopes were dashed. They were again too tired and wet to pick at our place. Our friends continued to answer the call and came out to pick with us on Saturday. At least we would salvage something of what looked to be a great vintage. After two days of rain, I was increasingly doubtful about getting it all picked and and less optimistic that the fruit would continue to be relatively free of disease. It looked like Murphy’s Law would win out.
Our friend prevailed on his crew one more time for Sunday morning. This time the crew showed up. With the crew and more of our friends and with the weather remaining relatively dry we were able to get the Chardonnay picked. The fruit still looked amazingly good. The crew seemed postive about their experience picking at Forest Edge and said they would be back next year. We hope so, because we heard from a number of fellow growers that they had trouble getting crews to come and to stay until until all the grapes were picked. Perhaps more on the labor issues in another edition.
But thanks to the persistence and willingness of friends to help us out in our hour of need, we were able to avoid the worst effects of Murphy’s Law this year.
Our crew of two(Jan and I) worked until early Monday morning getting all the fruit destemmed and crushed. When the fruit is in relatively good shape we like to leave them “on the skins” for 24 to 48 hours before we press. Many of the polyphenols and organoleptics in grapes are next to the skin and we feel that giving the grapes a chance to break down prior to pressing gets more of those desirable elements into the juice. We pressed the juice into neutral oak barrels and began fermentation. Fermentation went well with lots of the usual tropical fruit aromas and flavors in the wine. As I write this, the Chardonnay is undergoing Malolactic Fermentation and we look forward to a great vintage.