Wednesday’s “State of the Industry” session offers a perspective of where we are today, but you’ll want to attend Thursday’s General Session, “A Focus on the Future: Trends and Opportunities from Across the Globe,” to hear a dream team of industry experts for tackling the future. This session was designed for small, medium and large brands in mind and will include the latest proprietary domestic and global consumer insights and trends.
Coppola‘s Domain de Broglie Bests All in 30th annual McMinnville Wine Competition Diverse panel of professional judges endorse quality of Oregon Wines
Competition Submissions increase 25% with high profile entries from Willamette Valley
Submissions from non-festival wineries again surpasses expectations
McMinnville, OR January 16, 2023: The McMinnville Wine Classic Competition completed its 30th annual professional judging on Saturday 1/7/23. All eight out-of-state judges arrived unfettered and ready to help elevate the competition. The wine competition has not missed an event including through the peak Covid years and is a dedicated fundraiser for McMinnville’s St. James School. It raises thousands of dollars for programs benefiting the school’s children. Organized by Rolland Toevs, Carl Giavanti and Jon Johnson and staffed by volunteers, the Mac Classic competition is one of the largest Oregon Only wine competitions in the state. Visit https://www.mcminnvillewinecompetition.com/
The competition draws professional judges from across the U.S. This year’s panel represents the full spectrum of the wine industry, including future MW Samantha Cole Johnson of Janice Robinson.com, Sommeliers like Fred Swan and Ellen Landis, Buyer Jusden Aumand from Tri-Vin Imports, and Wine Writers such as Clive Pursehouse the U.S. Editor for Decanter Magazine, Eric Degerman of Great Northwest Wine, Deborah Parker-Wong the U.S. Editor Slow Wine Guide, James Melendez aka James the Wine Guy, and Michael Apstein of Wine Review Online and Terroir Sense. See 2023 Judges Panel and bios on the website.
Wines were showing well, with distribution of Double Gold and Gold awards was across the state. Taking home top honors in 2023 was Domaine de Broglie, whose 2019 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir claimed Best of Show, Best Pinot Noir and Best Red Varietal, a first time ever for any winery in the state.
Cardwell Hill Cellars won Best Chardonnay again this year, a record fourth time, for their 2021 The Bard Chard, as well as Best White Varietal. Pike Road Winery won Best Dessert Wine for their Yamhill-Carlton AVA Route 47 Late Harvest white. Rounding out the awards was Durant Vineyards who gained the top spot in the Best Sparkling Wine category for their 2019 Brut sparkling wine. All Double Gold and Gold Medals are listed at the bottom of this page: https://www.mcminnvillewinecompetition.com/awards.
When we taste and evaluate wines we rarely know much about them. If this is the case at your winery you should seek to change this. Your winery team will benefit and each person will be amazed at the results. Europe knows so much more about their terrior because they have allowed themselves to track it.
Following is an easy system encouraged to our winemaking team in the 1990’s by Mr. Jacques Boissenot. Mr. Boissenot was a premier left bank Bordeaux consultant awarded, by Decanter Magazine, the title of “Winemaker of the Decade” in July of 2010. Wine Spectator, after Mr. Boissenot’s death in 2014, referenced him as Bordeaux’s secret weapon.
STARTING: Starting the process may be the most difficult part depending on what you know about your vineyard. Work with your vineyard teams to get as much data on paper about the specific plots of land and the varietal(s) on them. Record this data on an easy to read map similar to the older 1990’s photograph below.
Notice the clone and rootstock material have been listed on the aerial photograph of a Napa Valley property but one could just as easily draw this, use computer models or from a satellite image. This is the start of the process and you can record even more data by researching deeper into the soils.
Digging pits, with a backhoe, can reveal a great deal if willing to go that far. Make several copies of this image for your future harvest(s). Update it when needed as well.
HARVEST: During the harvest each year make sure to record, beyond typical grape chemistry, the harvest date of each block and to note that on the map. Assign a lot code to the wine made from that area in the vineyard and do your best to keep the lots pure from any outside blending for at least 8 to 10 months (mostly red wines here). If blending is forced, due to cellar and tank considerations, do your best to isolate samples or even a carboy just before the blending happens. Bring that sample to the tasting table when appropriate. Note from the photograph the date and lettering based on the harvest sequence.
SET UP A MEETING: Set up a meeting every year, or more often, with your vineyard team. Taste the wines blind and evaluate them. Have the vineyard give their comments about each wine. Explain to them the different oak used, yeast or techniques to have them understand to dig deeper into the wines glass to tasting the soils. If canopy management trials were done and kept separate remind them to search for that and be sure to identify any control lots of each wine as a reference. Make sure to allow the wines time to open up and for critical tasting of each wine in a relaxed environment. Don’t rush. Unveil each lot and speak about them individually. Note other conditions that may have affected certain nuances beyond the soils such as weather, virus, weak section, frost, irrigation issues, etc. Dig in with discussion what the soils brought to that specific wine glass at that instance. Record these observations and distribute them to the team.
EXCHANGE HARVEST STORIES: Talk about the harvest and each lot. For example: relate to the batch that was on a truck that broke down and the sunshine greatly warmed the fruit. Do you taste that extra heating? Was it desired as a wine or not? Speak about the fruit that was delayed at the crusher and what impact that may have had. Speak about the extremely successful lots and pinpoint how nice they are. Why are they so nice? What variables went into them being so nice? Share the memories of the harvest and each lot. You will be amazed at how much each one of you will recall about each day of the harvest down to the minute details. The team building becomes a huge secondary benefit to this process.
COMMIT TO A DECADE: Most likely the first year of doing this your team will squirm in their chairs and attempt to claim ignorance. You will all most likely struggle and why shouldn’t you? There is no base line for what you are doing but you must establish the baseline of knowledge. It won’t be until years three, four and five that that similarities will start to form and evolve and that’s only if Mother Nature cooperates. Excitement will start to build and draw everyone into what is happening. Once the excitement catches on the squirms at the table will turn into well thought out questions and well stated observations. Confidence. What if we do this next year? Could we pick the weak lot of Cab Franc separate from the strong rows? Why does the Merlot on our best land seem thin but tight? The questions will go on and now the true research and trials can begin. Make sure you commit to a decade at the very least to make sure this excitement catches on and pays off. If done properly it will.
BLENDING SESSION: Although the blending session can happen with the same tasting team it will most likely happen with another team. The discoveries need to be shared after a blind tasting with the blending team. See if they agree. Is a certain nuance truly an enhancement or does it push the wine out of balance? Get their feedback on the lots that are the best. Relate that back to the vineyard, the vineyard management and the soils. Did anything else contribute to the favorability of the wines?
EVOLVE: Start to slowly evolve as a cohesive vineyard and winery unit toward goals established and agreed upon to pursue. Small nuances of every aspect of what is happening in both the vineyard and the winery will start to raise questions from each person as to “how did that affect the wine”? Information will be passed along for certain processes that may have had a positive impact. The team will be looking for that same positive impact and trying to capture that again with knowledge and intent. Before they didn’t even know what they were looking for. Now they do. Critical thinking of each aspect of growing and winemaking will start to gain traction along with the sharing.
Summary: Promise yourself, if you don’t already track it, that you will formulate a map and start to track the wine lots within that map. However crude and basic you start is of little importance. Taste the wine lots individually before blending the wines to relate the vineyard soils to the glass. Sip the soil. Once you start to see the results the desire to build on the database will certainly kick in. In several hundred years we will know as much about our land as Europe does about theirs.
CAUTION!Try not to get too distracted with this new endeavor. We still have wines to rack, lab tests to do, tanks to empty and bottling schedules to keep. But ohhhhh what you will learn from this!
Winemakers will often tell you that a delicate balance between art and science goes into every bottle of great wine. Lab testing and analysis are crucial steps in the winemaking process and present opportunities to focus on the science side of wine through the use of specialized equipment.
Wineries should familiarize themselves with many different kinds of lab equipment, especially if they intend to handle this part of the process themselves. New technologies are making DIY lab testing more manageable and accurate; however, outsourcing lab work is still the preferred option for many wineries worldwide.
Types of Lab Equipment Used by Wineries
Among the various kinds of lab equipment used in a winery setting are meters, hydrometers, test kits and lab chemicals. The lab analysis setup for wine will test for pH, titratable acidity, brix for juice analysis and yeast-assimilable nitrogen. Other things to test for are alcohol concentration, volatile acidity and free and total sulfur dioxide.
For routine analysis, it is essential to measure soluble solids to determine the level of grape maturity, fermentation status and alcohol content. Knowing the pH and titratable acidity helps a winemaker determine the grape ripeness and stability of the wine. Sulfur dioxide levels indicate the amounts of unwanted microorganisms, browning enzymes and antioxidant levels. When you know a wine’s ethanol content from lab testing, you can ensure that your wine is in the sweet spot of 10 to 14 percent alcohol content. Meanwhile, the wine spoilage risk can be mitigated by volatile acidity testing, and sensory lab testing that is separate from the rest of the wine lab can detect “off” colors and smells with new wine.
Based in Columbus, Ohio, Mettler-Toledoprovides analytical instruments and application support for wineries that cover the entire vinification process. This company offers brix meters for determining the readiness of grapes for harvest, density meters for fermentation monitoring and UV/VIS spectrophotometers for analyzing various characteristics, such as color, phenol, glucose and fructose content.
“The most commonly used instruments are our Excellence Titrators to assess pH, total acidity and free and total sulfur dioxide in must and wine to ensure quality and consistency of products,” Luke Soposki, AnaChem technical market analyst for Mettler-Toledo told The Grapevine Magazine. “Frequently, the titrators are paired with an InMotion® Autosampler to increase sample throughput and minimize the amount of necessary interaction from laboratory personnel.”
Unitech Scientific, based in Hawaiian Gardens, California, has designed and manufactured over 20 enzymatic reagent kits for wine analysis to check glucose/fructose, malic acid, acetic acid, ammonia, primary amino nitrogen and free and total sulfites. Customers can use this company’s reagent kits with manual spectrophotometers and automated analyzer systems.
“Unitech’s analyzers meet the needs of every
type of winery, from our manual V-120 Spectrophotometer and affordable semi-automatic analyzer for boutique wineries to our fully automatic ChemWell-T for Wine and premier ChemWell for Wine,” Rulan Miao, the president of Unitech Scientific, told The Grapevine Magazine.
“We provide installation and thorough training for ChemWell customers and service and support all our analyzers. Unitech Scientific also offers microbiology culture media and accessories for yeast, bacteria and spoilage organisms, including Brettanomyces.”
When setting up a wine lab, you’ll need to consider the lab equipment’s size and placement location. There are additional considerations to keep in mind about storing lab chemicals to keep employees safe from accidental exposure. Yet suitable lab protocols will ensure more consistently good wine with refreshing predictability.
Another essential piece of equipment is the refractometer, which measures grape maturity and sugar content, as well as must concentration before fermentation. Refractometers help predict alcohol concentration, monitor fermentation and gauge residual solids and final alcohol content in wine. MISCO, based in Solon, Ohio and in business for more than 70 years, is the last remaining manufacturer of handheld refractometers in the United States.
“The beauty of the MISCO handheld digital refractometers is that the customer can select from a basic Brix-only instrument to an instrument with several winemaking scales, including Baume, Oechsle, KMV, Sugar Content (g/L), Mass Fraction, Sugar Estimated Alcohol, Actual Alcohol and Specific Gravity,” Kathy Widing, the director of technical sales for MISCO, told The Grapevine Magazine. “The customer can select up to five measurement scales per unit.”
Widing shared that the detector array in the MISCO digital refractometer has 1,024 detector elements supporting a resolution of more than 3,256 pixels per inch. Meanwhile, competing units only have 128 detector elements with 400 PPI. With 87 percent more detector elements, the MISCO units have more than eight times the resolution.
“To put this in perspective, it is roughly the difference between a two- to five-megapixel camera compared to a 20-megapixel camera, Widing said. “This provides MISCO refractometers with two to three times the measurement precision. Unlike competitors that offer only glass prisms, MISCO refractometers have a sapphire measuring surface, the next hardest substance to diamond, so they are virtually scratch-proof. The MISCO digital refractometer also features a large 24-character by two-line LCD display with a backlight, a stainless-steel sample well and a protective evaporation cover.”
MISCO refractometers are very easy to use and come with a detailed instruction manual. But when asked about possible challenges that wineries encounter when using refractometers, Widing shared three problematic scenarios: (1) not zero-setting the instrument before use, (2) not waiting a short time after applying a sample for the temperature of the sample and device to equalize and (3) not keeping the measuring surface clean.
In-House Lab v. Outsourced Lab
The decision to create an in-house wine lab or outsource this work to a professional laboratory company often comes down to winery size, production amounts, location and budget. If a winery has its own lab, it may get faster testing results instead of waiting for lab reports from an outside company. Having your own lab can help your winery improve record keeping and ensure more precise quality control. You can identify significant problem areas early to prevent potential production issues later on and get better analytical insights into a wine’s unique qualities. Some wineries with their own labs have found that they save on shipping and logistical costs over time, compared to paying those fees for outside wine lab services.
“One of the greatest benefits of having an on-site laboratory is the ability to readily analyze samples and obtain results versus aggregating samples and shipping them to a testing facility,” Soposki from Mettler-Toledo said. “This allows the vinification process to be more dynamic, with more flexibility to the workflow. Having an in-house lab can also be more cost-effective over time depending on the number of samples regularly shipped and analyzed. Lastly, with an in-house lab, Mettler-Toledo experts are always available for assistance with application support and interpretation of results. If there are sample results that fall outside of the expected range, we can provide assistance with result interpretation and suggest corrective actions.”
However, a great deal of training and experience are needed for a winery staff to handle its own lab testing. While hiring an outside lab may give you less control over the testing process, it can still be a cost-effective option for smaller and newer wineries. If you have limited staff or knowledge about wine testing, hiring an expert to handle this part of the process can make the difference between producing mediocre and fantastic wine.
“Operating an on-site laboratory includes additional business considerations that need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to decide if testing labs may be a better fit,” Soposki said. “To effectively run an on-site lab, dedicated personnel are necessary to get the best results from your analyses. Personnel need to be comfortable handling reagents and managing the purchasing process to ensure necessary chemicals are on-hand. Ultimately, while there are instrument options for any budget, the cost of ownership and maintenance needs to be evaluated.”
Miao from Unitech Scientific told The Grapevine Magazine that the advantages of setting up in-house testing are the timely availability and the low cost of your analyses. In this way, Unitech Scientific customers can avoid the expense and delay of shipping or delivering samples to an outside lab.
“In-house testing requires that sufficient time be set-aside for ordering materials and performing the analysis,” Miao said. “The key requirement is an experienced individual or a person willing and capable of developing the skills needed. Unitech Scientific provides step-by-step instructions with our reagent kits and simplified EnoLyzer applications for our EnoLyzer customers. Our technical support team is available to answer your questions.”
Innovations for the Modern Wine Lab
Although it is necessary to evaluate costs, staffing and expertise when choosing between building an in-house lab or using an outside lab, it’s important to note that new products and technologies are emerging every year. More affordable products now allow even small wineries to automate their labs and get themselves poised for future growth.
During the past 12 months, Mettler-Toledo has introduced three new products that fit seamlessly into the analytical workflows of wineries. The new EasyPlus UV/VIS Spectrophotometers are user-friendly instruments designed to quickly perform measurements crucial to the quality of the ingredients and the final wine product.
“These benchtop instruments come preloaded with 10+ color scales to make color measurements simple and efficient,” Soposki of Mettler-Toledo said. “Additionally, conventional spectroscopy can be used to perform analyses, such as phenol, glucose, fructose and malic acid content.”
A second new product is the DipenSix Liquid Handler, which can be integrated into a titration system with an InMotion® Autosampler. Soposki said this product automatically doses consistent and accurate sample volumes, aids in sample preparation and dilutions and performs cleaning before moving on to the next sample. The benefit of DispenSix is that each analysis is fully automated and performed in just a few minutes.
“Lastly, our new MyBrix handheld refractometer is ideal for determining the optimal harvesting time of grapes and measuring the sugar content of grape must before fermentation,” Soposki said. “It measures refractive index as well as sugar content in our preferred scale, with results displayed in just two seconds. Digital refractometers increase results reliability in comparison to analog refractometers by eliminating operator dependency and assisting with error detection.”
While discussing new technological innovations and enhancements that have come out recently for winery lab equipment, Miao from Unitech Scientific referenced the introduction of semi-automated and automated enzymatic analyzers. These updates complement the ease of importing lab results from these analyzers into PC spreadsheets with a management system that has revolutionized information flow within the winery.
“We continually improve the user-friendliness of our reagent kits,” Miao said. “For example, our ACS Powder has recently been replaced with a convenient liquid-stable ACS solution.”
“The latest technological innovation in refractometry is the move from the traditional handheld analog refractometer to digital handheld instruments,” said Widing from MISCO. “Besides the fact that a digital refractometer removes the subjectivity of visually determining where the fuzzy shadow line of a traditional refractometer meets the tiny scale division, digital devices offer an order of magnitude better accuracy and precision. Other new technologies include miniature refractive index sensors that can automate sample-taking with continuous sample measurements.”
Choosing the Best Lab Solutions
An increasing number of wineries, both large and small, are using analytical instruments in their production processes with the help of specialized suppliers that have extensive industry knowledge and offer ongoing support. In addition to choosing an experienced company to work with and settling on the best products for your needs, it’s also important to consider cleaning procedures and preventative maintenance plans to extend the longevity of your lab instruments. Soposki said that a well-cared-for and properly maintained lab instrument from Mettler-Toledo will last at least ten years before a replacement needs to be considered.
But however a winery chooses to approach lab testing, there is no denying its importance and need for attention to detail.
“Optimum wine quality requires that the winemaker closely monitor grape ripeness, fermentation completeness, sulfite levels and emerging wine spoilage issues,” said Miao from Unitech Scientific. “Timely lab results are much more sensitive and precise than traditional wine evaluation, and close monitoring of the fermentation and aging processes reduces contamination and enhances quality and yields.”
Even if you think your winery is too small to warrant an upgrade in lab equipment, it may be worth looking at what is now available for in-house testing. You might be surprised at your own capabilities and be enticed by potential winery efficiency improvements that can result from a modest initial investment.
Here’s a quick trivia question for you: Where is the oldest winemaking region in North America? Although Northern California, the Hudson Valley of New York and the Coahuila state of Mexico are common guesses, the correct answer is actually New Mexico. This fact might come as a surprise to many wine enthusiasts because New Mexico wines rarely gain the widespread attention or recognition of wines produced in other regions across the continent. Yet the wine industry is thriving in this part of the Southwest and has a lot to offer local residents and curious travelers.
The first widespread production of wine began in New Mexico in 1629 after Spaniards settled in the area and began making wine to support their Catholic communion traditions. Fast-forward to 1995, when Casa Rondeña Winery first came onto the New Mexico winery scene as a family endeavor at the hands of vintner John Calvin and his two young sons, Ross and Clayton. Although there are over 50 wineries today in New Mexico, Casa Rondeña, located in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, stands out because of its hands-on approach to winemaking, a nod to cultural traditions and unique event offerings. It is also one of my favorite local wineries and just a few miles down the road from where I currently live in New Mexico, also known as the “Land of Enchantment!”
Getting to Know Casa Rondeña
Casa Rondeña’s owner and vintner, John Calvin, along with the Casa Rondeña Winery team, shared some details with The Grapevine about what makes this winery unique and stand out among others in the region and beyond.
While living in Spain, Calvin gained an appreciation for architecture, music and winemaking – three components that helped build Casa Rondeña Winery into what we know and love today. As a family-owned-and-operated winery, Casa Rondeña has been committed to growing and winemaking practices that respect its agricultural roots and the greater community. The winery is loved by its members for both the elevated experience and elegance of the surroundings, as well as the dedication to creating the finest wines in the Southwest. Meanwhile, the nearby Sandia Mountains offer a stunning background as you stroll through the vineyard, enjoying the grandeur of architecture or relaxing with a glass of wine by the pond.
John Calvin built and raised his family in what is now known as the ever-popular 1629 Club. Unique to the state and named for the year the first vines were smuggled into New Mexico by Franciscan monks, this private membership club offers an exclusive atmosphere that is committed to providing members exceptional service in a relaxing atmosphere to unwind from life’s fast pace. The Casa Rondeña tasting room has been open since August 1997, and it built a new barrel aging and storage facility in 2008.
As you pass through the Rondeña archway, you are immediately transported to a different time and place. It is a place for peace and reflection, of beauty and grace, where beauty is created for its own sake and where your friends and family are reminded of why we live in New Mexico.
The Wines of Casa Rondeña
As a boutique winery, Casa Rondeña takes a hands-on approach to winemaking and makes wines that the family and winery team enjoy – bold, dry reds and classic, crisp whites. These are wines that pay tribute to the land and culture of the Rio Grande Valley.
Calvin and the winery team pointed out that Casa Rondeña built a wine around 1629 as a nod to the origins of winemaking. This 1629 flagship wine is as rich in history as in its flavor. This blend of tempranillo, syrah, and cabernet sauvignon is layered and full-bodied, and its wonderfully dense flavors are credited to the vines that have been rooted for more than 25 years. It’s entirely New Mexican and not found anywhere else in the world.
A complete and updated list of Casa Rondeña’s current wines can be found on the Tasting Room page of the winery’s website, along with descriptions of each locally hand-crafted wine.
Behind the Scenes at Casa Rondeña
When I asked Calvin and the Casa Rondeña Winery team about the most significant challenges they have experienced, they noted that the quality of wine worldwide goes up every year. Vintner John Calvin and Assistant Winemaker Joshua Franco listen and feel this climate, creating wines that represent this place, the sky, river and sunlight.
“We focused on what we do best: make the best wine in the Southwest and maintain the most hospitable and beautiful environment in the region, paired with an incredible staff,” Calvin said. “With our wine club members and growing audience of wine-enthusiasts, our biggest challenge is always about keeping up with production demand.”
Visiting Casa Rondeña
In my personal experience, I have found Casa Rondeña to be an exceptionally friendly and welcoming winery where it’s easy to lose track of time and spend all afternoon catching up on conversations with friends and perhaps even making new ones. The Casa Rondeña tasting room is open to the public daily from 12pm to 7pm, and no reservations are required to visit.
For first-time visitors, the best way to experience Casa Rondeña is to select four wines for a tasting flight and learn about each one to discover your favorite. Crackers, chips, meat and cheese plates, fruit and veggie plates and chocolates are available in the tasting room. Nearby, you’ll find a gift shop filled with unique items crafted by local artisans. Casa Rondeña does not allow outside food to be brought into the winery.
From here, step outside to take a walk around the grounds with a glass of wine in hand or take a seat on the patio to soak up the natural beauty of pure New Mexico. In addition to flights, visitors can purchase wines by the glass or bottle. It is a very family-friendly winery that welcomes children, obviously, as long as they don’t consume alcohol and are appropriately supervised. Only registered service animals, but no pets are allowed at Casa Rondeña. For non-wine-drinkers in your group, Casa Rondeña offers canned beers from the Albuquerque-based Marble Brewery and non-alcoholic beverages.
Not Just Your Average Winery
Yet Casa Rondeña is much more than just a local producer of wine in Albuquerque’s North Valley. It is also a one-of-a-kind event venue that is loved for its spiritual, calming and romantic vibes. There are three event spaces at Casa Rondeña that are surrounded by lush vineyards, flowing fountains, a lovely pond, and cottonwood trees that evolve with the seasons. Casa Rondeña is a popular local spot for weddings because it offers customized wedding packages with options for rehearsal dinners, private tours and tastings, engagement photography sessions, bridal suites, groom’s rooms, and a long list of amenities.
Calvin, a Rio Grande Valley native and trained flamenco guitarist, is passionate about world music and local music, and so the winery has even hosted intimate concerts to celebrate these interests and support the community. In addition to private events for special occasions, there is also Casa Rondeña’s Wellness + Wine program, which attracts people who are passionate about wine and inspired by health.
According to Calvin and the Casa Rondeña team, the program consists of classes run by five of the area’s top yoga and Pilates instructors. Open to all skill levels, this one-hour, beautiful outdoor practice is followed by a glass of wine and an invitation to stay and relax on the grounds. Classes surround the pond of the 1629 Club, paired with the tranquil and meditative sounds of Handpan music. Reservations are required to participate in Wine + Wellness events, and participants can purchase picnic-style food options from the tasting room.
“While the program takes a hiatus during the winter months, we anxiously await its return in the spring of 2023,” Calvin said.
What’s Next for Casa Rondeña?
Aside from the much-anticipated return of Wine + Wellness events and periodically scheduled holiday happenings, there is much more to look forward to at Casa Rondeña in the coming months and years.
Calvin and the winery team shared, “Adjacent to our nearly 30-year-old Casa Rondeña Winery is the home to our new Animante Winery. This newest addition to the property is expected to break ground in early December 2022. The winery will be doubling in size with a new vineyard, and be a new winery that will offer a new menu of wines.”
Through new additions and the changing seasons, the people of Casa Rondeña remain humble and ever grateful to be able to continue their mission: to be at the cutting edge of culture, architecture and winemaking in the Land of Enchantment.
When one thinks of Napa Valley, the mind becomes filled with images of vineyards stretching towards the horizon, the scent of purposely-cultivated grape varietals, and the unique flavor profiles of each carefully-crafted wine. After all, finding the perfect balance between taste and quality is something that the region’s wines have become globally renowned for.
Last year, California was named the best state for vintage quality, which should come as no surprise considering that most sparkling wines are typically the first to be picked in California. The Golden State produces about 80% of the nation’s wine, making it the world’s fourth-largest wine-producing region and the most popular wine origin for high-frequency drinkers at 35%.
For winemakers, this recent growth should spark more than one proverbial lightbulb. The market for California wines is larger than ever, and with that growing market comes a rising demand from customers for wines that can quickly become their new favorite go-to drink. But in order to stand out from the swelling tide of competition, you will need to ensure that the wine you produce will be one that stays as fresh in the bottle as it does in the mind of your customers — you will need to create a wine that resembles California in a single glass.
Finding a Distinct California Taste
When one is seeking to not only create a quality wine true to what California embodies, but one that will create lasting memories, attention to every detail is key. For any new winemakers out there, this counts double. Wineries and vineyards in the Golden State hit a record $40 billion in sales in 2020, and international exports of their goods are only climbing as more and more people around the world seek out the flavors and aromas distinct to the region. The California wines primarily enjoyed include Sauvignon Blanc, Rosé, Pinot Noir, assorted red blends, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
When you are a new winemaker looking to create something that resonates with California, it’s important to remember that your consumers are also likely looking towards other smaller wine brands in order to get a taste of their distinctly local flair. California has over 4,000 wineries, including the famous Napa Valley and Sonoma, where every seasoned sommelier should at least make one trip on their vino journey.
Many wine drinkers get comfortable with their favorite brand and style of wine, but the way to encourage them to try something new and different is to give them something familiar, yet unique. As a winemaker, your goal should be to put your own spin on the flavors you love in a wine. If there’s something you love about it, chances are someone else will love it, too.
The 5 Components of
California Wine Climate
The Golden State boasts a climate as unique to the region as it is diverse. Benefiting from the generally mild, Mediterranean-like climate — dry, warm summers followed by fairly mild winter and spring months — the grapes cultivated for wines in California are able to steadily grow throughout the majority of the year.
California’s natural geography cannot be overlooked for the role it plays in the state’s wine production. Thanks to the cool Pacific winds that naturally cool the west and northwest portions of the state, the grapes grown in California’s vineyards are able to retain a majority of their acidity, highlighted in the balanced, fresh taste of the wines they produce. And thanks to variations in both elevation and soil found throughout California, winemakers and vineyard owners are able to plan for the specific wines they want to make.
Balance and sustainability are arguably two of the most important components of quality wine, and California is no stranger to either component. The Golden State has long been a trailblazer in terms of sustainable environmental practices, prioritizing the health of its natural soils, water, and other resources — all of which shine through in its wines.
The trick to mastering this component with wine production, however, is understanding what elements of a specific wine balance well with others. For example, if a wine has identifiable characteristics that are clearly tied to a specific grape variety or region, that specific vino is explicitly expressive of that particular region. But if the flavor profile, acidity level, or aroma of that particular grape — say a Cabernet Savouignon — does not balance with the overall palate, the perceived quality of the wine will diminish amongst consumers.
Many wine drinkers have their favorite varietal of wine, but the great thing about a distinct grape or blend is that it is immediately recognizable to anyone who has tried it before. Even if one doesn’t describe themselves as a sommelier, or even a seasoned vino drinker, they can still taste and identify the grape’s distinct flavor profile.
Intricacy and Aromas
Ultimately, the flavor profile of any wine comes down to the varietal of grapes used in its production. If you are looking to create a vino that one could consider a simple blend, then your varietal should remain relatively unchanged. However, to make a more complex — and, perhaps, more memorable — concoction, various aromas and flavors should be added, including primary (water, alcohol, acid, sugar, and phenolic components), secondary, and tertiary flavor components.
Secondary components derive from the actual winemaking process, which includes fermentation and the aging process. These elements could include biscuit and yeasty, elements that appear from autolysis, an effect that occurs when the yeast dies off. Or a distinct popcorn aroma that is a common byproduct of malolactic fermentation in Chardonnays.
Tertiary components occur when the aging of the wine occurs in an ideal environment. For red wines, fresh ripe fruit used in production will, in the process, transform into stewed or dried fruit, not dissimilar to a raisin or fig. During this process, it is not uncommon to experience aromas occurring that are reminiscent of tobacco, earth, and even mushrooms.
For aged white wines in tertiary, these can commonly develop notes of dried apricot or orange marmalade, as well as Sherry-like notes of almonds and flavors similar to candied fruits. Other tertiary characteristics include nutty aromas and more complex spice components such as nutmeg, ginger, or petrol.
It is essential to note that wines with tertiary aromas are not considered to be inherently “better” than wines with primary and secondary aromas. Sommeliers attracted to fruity, lighter tastes, for instance, are more likely to prefer a primary or secondary wine. Moreover, at least 90% of wines are made to be consumed young and fresh, according to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, while only a smaller percentage improves with aging.
When you think about the aromas of a wine, you usually hear about the more fruity or floral aromas. But depending on the varietal you use in making your wine, there are plenty of other flavors you can incorporate and bring out in the final product. The key, again, is to make it your own.
Perfecting the quality
The aging process can also significantly influence the flavor profile of a wine. For example, many California vineyards age their red blend in oak barrels, allowing the wine to absorb some of the oak’s distinct flavor. Oak aging, for instance, gives sommeliers flavors such as vanilla, clove, smoke, coconut — even coffee. Although the oakiness isn’t strong in the finished product, it’s noticeable enough to be a pleasant addition to the wine’s flavor profile, hence the tertiary element.
Securing the right flavors could be easier said than done, especially given the frequent lack of consistency that occurs throughout the distilling process. For those more new to the process, this can rightfully feel frustrating. If you find that the distinct California flavor you are looking for isn’t quite there yet, continue experimenting with the elements of the process you can control. There are so many different flavor profiles that you can create, so you have to find something that captures not only your own taste, but the taste your customers are after.
With home-distilling red wine, I should advise that achieving consistency in your wine’s flavor will perhaps be the most difficult challenge. Yes, you are bound to make mistakes, but remember that your customers are after consistency in the final product just as much as they are for its quality. If either component is found lacking, so will your future revenues!
The biggest challenge about having your own wine is that, once you have the product in your hand and people taste it and love it, they’re going to ask where they can buy it. When you’re just starting, it will probably be only online or in a handful of physical locations. The challenging part is getting the wine into the hands of more people so they can try it and enjoy it as we do.
Entrepreneurs hoping to get their foot in the door of the wine business should find a particular varietal or blend they are passionate about. Your consumers have an abundance of options when it comes to alcohol brands — especially wine. If you’re making wine just to make it, you will not be able to stand out as a smaller, independent brand. Find a wine that you are passionate about, and start there. Once you find success with that first varietal, you will be far better equipped to grow your business alongside your base of customers.
Marlo Richardson is a multi-entrepreneur, CEO, and founder of four Black-owned cannabis businesses in California. She is also the founder of the wine company, Braymar Wines and Business Bullish, a website, and resource that seeks to train people in the areas of financial literacy and entrepreneurship. Marlo is the owner of STAGE 21 bar in Culver City, CA, formally known as the Tattletale Room Tavern. She is also the president of Marlo Productions and produced two theatrical films and hosts a podcast that mentors people looking to start investing in cryptocurrency & the stock market.
Steve Lutz, vigneron and founder sells his iconic estate after 22 years
Peavine soils certified worst in Yamhill County, proved to yield distinctive Pinot Noirs
Lutz is said to be setting up next phase of his idiosyncratic wine career
Purchasers Jory, LLC will release next stage brand name and concept for the estate
Yamhill, Ore October 31, 2022. Lutz’s wine career spans 4 decades and includes hospitality management for part of the Mondavi Wines Group in Napa Valley among other Napa brands and heading up hospitality at Chateau Benoit (now Anne Amie) in Carlton, Oregon culminating in the discovery of his unique 20.9 acre estate vineyard. The brand name Lenné’ was derived as a French influenced wordplay of Lenny, Steve’s father-in-law who reportedly was a chicken farmer in a suburb of London.
Jory, LLC had been searching for a bespoke Pinot producing site and were delighted when approached by Steve. They intend to further develop the existing property with a new brand name, marketing concepts, and larger facilities. Co-owner Eugene Labunsky has admitted to being thrilled to finally acquire a property he has had his eye on for years.
About Lenné’ Estate
Lenne’ Estate grows death-defying Pinot Noir vineyards on steep slopes in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. Steve Lutz planted his first vines in 2001, expanding the vineyard property to 20.9 acres. The estate is planted with five clones of Pinot Noir (Pommard, 777, 115, 114, and 667), and most recently Chardonnay.
About Jory, LLC
Jory, LLC is a partnership between grower and wine enthusiast Eugene Labunsky and Jared Etzel, winemaker and co-founder of Domaine Roy, and son of Mike Etzel of Beaux Frere fame. The partnership was formed with the intent to grow a portfolio of fine wine brands produced from singular estates of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Additional information will be released in the upcoming months.
Contact: Carl Giavanti, Media Relations Lenné’ Estate
During the virtual Oregon Wine Symposium (February 15-17, 2022), Cheney Vidrine, winemaker for Union Wine Company, moderated a panel on winery sustainability focusing on best practices for water management in the cellar.
Brighid O’Keane, former outreach director for LIVE, opened with a brief overview of LIVE’s sustainability standards for wineries. LIVE is a Pacific Northwest (OR, WA and ID) organization that supports environmentally and socially responsible wine-growing through third-party certification and education. Their certification is granted based on their values, which are climate action, biodiversity, soil health, worker rights, natural ressource conservation and pesticide reduction. At present, they have 328 vineyard members that produce 425,000 cases of certified wine (97 percent certified fruit).
LIVE contracted with Erin Upton from Erin Upton Consulting to analyze the environmental impact of their member wineries, focusing on water use in the winery. First, Upton noted the myriad ways wineries utilize water. In the cellar, water is used year-round on the hospitality side for dishwashing, toilet flushing and watering visitor areas. Water use rises during harvesting and bottling.
Upton notes how wine industries exist in the context of regional communities where water resources are shared by others who often have varied or possibly conflicting needs around water. “Water operates in a hydrologic cycle and moves through the air and landscape in ways that don’t adhere to land ownership boundaries or political boundaries.”
In her research, Upton uses a framework to look at the interconnected relationships between social, ecological and institutional systems in wine regions and how these contribute to decision-making and impact outcomes around water resources and water management. A major impact is climate change challenges, with weather extremes informing the amount of snowpack that will be available for water use, as well as the increased demand for water use as a result of heat waves.
Another major impact is on water availability, meaning the ability to access clean water in the amounts needed on a timely basis. The institutional systems influencing water decision-making in wine regions include legal regimes, legislation, policy and management. This goes along with the constellation of regulators, planners, businesses, nonprofits and other governments like tribes that influence decision-making about water at the local, regional, state and federal levels.
The third category she considers is social systems, which include cultural aspects, such as one’s values, economics and political contexts. Upton observes, “People hold different values about what contributes to making the highest quality of wine ranging from economic and cost considerations to a commitment to environmental stewardship.”
In accessing winery water use data from 31 LIVE-certified wineries from 2018-2020, Upton observed that most of the 31 wineries use less than 500,000 total gallons of water each year, and the average annual total water use rate is approximately 1.4 million gallons. There was a wide variation between wineries for water use rates, ranging from 0.39 gallons of water per case of wine to 72 gallons per case of wine. Approximately half the wineries used 10 gallons of water per case of wine produced or less, which translates to 3.6 gallons per gallon of wine produced. The average water use rate is 17 gallons of water per case of wine, which translates to 6.3 gallons of water per gallon of wine produced.
Although there is no statistically significant change in water use across these three years, a little over 70 percent of wineries reported less water use in 2020 than in 2018. But it’s important to note that in the same time period, the total production dropped by nearly two million cases overall due to COVID-19 and the 2020 wildfire season.
Through the act of monitoring water use, multiple wineries reported that they discovered leaks that were contributing to the higher amounts of water used. In Upton’s estimation, this discovery is a good endorsement for them to pay attention and monitor any leaks.
Building a More SustainableWinery Program
Katie Jackson, second-generation proprietor and SVP for corporate social responsibility at Jackson Family Wines (Santa Rosa, CA), and Haley Duncan, safety and sustainability manager for Silver Oak and Twomey Cellars (CA and OR), discussed the practical ways they work to achieve a more sustainable winery.
According to Jackson, they have been focused on conserving water since they began their winery 40 years ago. They participate in multiple certification programs, including LIVE. At present, they are saving about 29 million gallons of water in their wineries based upon the conservation practices they put in place, along with keeping sixty percent of their land in its natural habitat to preserve the health of those natural ecosystems going strong.
Since 2015, they’ve conducted an exhaustive inventory, along with a third-party audit, so they can track their emissions. Jackson notes, “Having this inventory is really helpful in showing us where we can make some changes and lets us know where we need to be focused going into the future to continue to decarbonize.” This move has reduced their carbon footprint by 17.8 percent of their absolute emissions, with the goal to reduce their carbon footprint in half by 2030 and become climate-positive by 2050.
Presently, they have the U.S. wine industry’s largest solar array, with more than 23,000 panels and plans to continue their investment in renewable energy. Also, they reduced the bottle weight by five percent on their four highest volume bottle molds, which reduced total company emissions by 2-3 percent annually. This produced savings of approximately a million dollars annually in glass costs and $500,000 per year in fuel costs.
Duncan described her role as project manager for the construction of their Alexander Valley winery in Healdsburg to achieve LEED Platinum status and living building status for the production side of the winery, the tasting room and all of the vineyards on the property. They were tasked with eliminating fuel use, using alternative refrigerants and installing only electric equipment.
They achieved positive energy, which means that they produce more energy than they require, by installing over 2,500 solar panels on their buildings. For their hot water, they partnered with a Mayekawa (MYCOM) to provide CO₂ heat pumps. These were the first pumps to be used in a winery, and they work differently than a traditional on-demand gas-fired boiler by slowly warming the water up to about 160 to 180 degrees. As this is not an on-demand system, once all the water is used in the water tank, it takes a full 24 hours to regenerate. In Duncan’s estimation, this delay represents a good thing. “It’s pushed us to be much more conservative with our winery water use in our peak water use seasons and plan ahead,” she said.
Another piece of technology they utilize is ammonia-based refrigeration. While this has no ozone-depleting potential and no global warming potential, they needed to put the right mechanisms in place to ensure employee safety should a leak occur. Along those lines, they focused on all their electric equipment, including their HVAC and appliances, for the commercial kitchens in their tasting room.
Also, they were tasked with designing a system that treated and reused their winery process water. As they could not find an example where another winery was actually reusing their process water back into the facility, they had to make up the process as they went along. Eventually, they landed on a piece of equipment called a membrane bioreactor, which Duncan noted is not new technology, but it has never been used in quite the way that they intended to use it. They chose this piece of equipment to treat all of their winery process water because of its ability to produce a very high-quality effluent so they could reuse the water, not just in equipment like a cooling tower or landscape irrigation, but in the cellar as well.
When conducting their first greenhouse gas audit in 2019, they discovered that the largest impact on their inventory was product transport, which is out of their control. Most of this cost is attributed to the two-day shipping that uses airplane transport offered on their website. The second expense was packing and then an equal mix of employee commuting, tasting room traffic, purchasing products like the grapes they buy from their contract growers, their vineyard practices and soil admissions.
At present, over half of their onsite renewable energy needs are met with solar. The remaining of that is green power they purchased through the grid.
International Wineries for Climate Action
In 2019, Jackson Family Wines co-founded this group with Familia Torres (Spain) wineries worldwide, with the overall goal of achieving net zero emissions by at least 2050. This group seeks to bring together as many wineries across the industry as possible from all different regions across the world in order to learn from each other, provide a roadmap with their collective knowledge and share strategies so they can get all of the members to that decarbonization goal as quickly as possible.
The group’s accomplishments include creating a gas emissions calculator to help wineries more easily measure their carbon footprint and joining the United Nations Race to Zero campaign. It has grown from 10 to more than 30 members representing seven countries across five continents. “Having a large critical mass of wineries, I think, is going to be really critical in helping us achieve our goals as an overall industry,” Jackson reflects.
One of the biggest tasks in setting up a winery or expanding one is the decisions on the wine tanks. Much time, thought and effort should go into planning what the winery wants to accomplish with the tanks. If these decisions are made properly and well in advance dollar savings and better functionality can be achieved.
What will these tanks be used for? If the tanks will be used for fermenting juice one set of criteria may be used. If used additionally for cold settling of juice, red fermentations or cold stabilization the list of criteria will expand. Deciding what the tanks are needed for in the winery will lead toward the right choice.
White wine fermentors often have a small valve port at the bottom of the tank at a diameter, for most smaller winery sizes, of 1.5 to 2.0 inches. This is used to fill and empty the tank. A racking valve, usually of the same diameter, will exist on the tank to allow the winemaker to remove clear wine or juice from the tank to a level a small manway door, normally and 18” oval, may be opened to continue to pump the remaining clear juice or wine out of the tank. These tanks are very versatile for red or white wines after pressing.
Red wine tanks often have similar characteristics as the above but with a lower manway door level with the floor or bottom of the tank. This allows the winemaking team to remove the pomace, after skin fermentation, from the vessel to separate the red wine from the red grapes, seeds and skins. Some red wine tanks do not have the side oval door mentioned in the white wine paragraph above but the purchaser is encouraged to get these doors on their reds tanks so the tanks may be used more in the cellar as red and white wine tanks.
Cooling jackets – location and how much? Give serious consideration to this aspect due to many physical characteristics and laws of heat transfer. Consider the amount of surface area that may be needed to cool the juice/wine needed. If one needs to use the tanks for fermentation only a smaller surface area may be used. If chilling the wine to cold stabilize the wine, make sure there will be enough surface area to combat predicted ambient cellar temperatures and let your cooling system representative know the capacity of the wine tank and desired cold stability temperature of the wine. When discussing the cooling jackets be sure to understand where the jackets will be placed on the tanks to best be able to predict how much volume will be needed in the tank for the heat transfer to start taking place. My position is the lower the jacket placement on the sidewall of the tank the better. Larger sized tanks may require two, or more, separate cooling jackets.
Will solenoids be used to help control the temperature of the tank? Will these be electronically controlled? Do you want them to be web based controlled for off-site monitoring and manipulation? Do you want wireless applications to control the solenoids? How many thermocouples ports will be needed for proper temperature control and for the readings desired?
Heating capacity: Becoming more of the norm in the cellar and more affordable for the winemaking team. Zero in on the needs of the heating and give serious thought to insulating your tanks for the process. Do you care for heating elements in the bottom of the tank or do you prefer a mobile glycol heater unit that will plug into your isolated glycol jackets on individual tanks? If choosing the heating element positioned in the bottom of the tank make sure to address the potential freezing of this liquid, if used, during cold stabilization. If using a glycol heater for the jackets make sure to plumb the tanks for this feature.
Valves – where and how big? Racking valves – determine what size fitting and hoses may used for the transfers of the juice, wine or must into and out of the tank. Smaller wineries will be able to size the valves at 1.5 to 2.0 inches as mentioned for juice or wine. If must will be pumped into and out of the tank one will want to review how this will be done and consider larger sized fittings at the bottom port. I rarely choose the larger valves but there may be instances this is the best choice.
Man ways and doors? Many configurations of man ways and doors exist. Think through all wine and juice production needs to best select these locations, functions and sizes.
Will the tanks be placed on adjustable legs or stands? This issue can be a large issue in terms of physically handling the red wine must. If one prefers not to pump red wine must after crushing for quality purposed, one must place the tanks at a height with the lower manway door opening on the red wine tank to have a bin or container placed underneath the lower man way opening to the tank. Although this is the largest reason to place a tank higher in the air than “normal” be sure to pay attention to this height even if using a must pump. Dejuicing tanks can also be elevated above a press opening level for certain production benefits and efficiencies linked to productions styles and quality issues. White wine tanks may have more flexibility regarding the tank leg height but be sure to understand where the racking door will be placed and how the tank will be serviced, cleaned etc.
Will the tanks be placed indoors or outdoors? Review this question not only for your first needs but address the question for the anticipated growth of your winery.
What material should the tanks be made out of? While many tanks are stainless steel and this article addresses stainless steel tanks, tanks can be made of other materials including but not limited to: Concrete, cement, fiberglass, wood, plastic etc.
Will fixed or variable capacity tanks be used? Speak with the winemaking team a long time on this issue. What style of wine will be produced and how long will it stay in the stainless tanks? There are certain positive applications for both styles so choosing the correct one will be significant. I highly recommend fixed capacity tanks for almost all situations and applications.
What size tank will we need and where will it be placed? Don’t laugh but some tanks that may be one height may not fit in your winery with a fixed ceiling height. Keep in mind the tank is a cylinder, in most cases, and that tipping that on end and upward may require more ceiling height than expected. Run some math to make sure the tanks will fit in the building. Is the door large enough to get the tank in the building? Also determine if one can open and service the top of the tank after it is in place. Will a catwalk be built and if so – what impact will this have regarding setbacks from the wall or certain areas. Will a public catwalk also be close by? Will the public have access to the tank? How much space will you care to have between the tanks?
When do I need to order the tanks? The earlier negotiations with suppliers can start the better chance of getting exactly what you want at a reasonable price. Custom made tanks are not necessarily more expensive than stock tanks. Orders with ample lead time may allow for the tanks to be made where quality craftsmanship is high and labor cost are low. Order at least 7 months in advance to get what you want and to have time negotiating price with different suppliers.
Equally important to all of the above one must also give serious thought, specific to their winery, addressing: What will the side wall height to diameter ratio be? Can certain savings be made if tanks are made in stock sheet metal width sizes? Will lift eyelets be needed? Will ladder hooks be needed and where? Will the top of the tanks truncate forward, back or have centered manway tops? Will sight gauges be needed? Will sample valves be installed and where? Will thermocouple ports be needed, how many and where? Will name plates and ice shields be needed? Do you want a separate mixing valve port? Will delestage be a winemaking tool that is used in the operation?
Make sure the supplier of the tank is reputable and to establish what type of welds will be used, their finish and the gauge/thickness of the steel, if choosing stainless. The quality of the stainless steel can vary too.
Can I get technical drawings from the manufacture? In most cases with a reputable tank manufacture you will be able to request tank drawings to make sure the dimensions and locations are as you expect them to be. See attached a drawing of a tank made overseas and where most figures are in metric and US.
In review – a wine tank is not just a wine tank! Many factors go into each winery specific needs for these tanks. The above are just some of the starter issues one will want to review. In no way have all issues been covered. The more the winemaking team thinks through their operational and winemaking needs related to the wine tanks, both immediate and for the future, the more cost effective this purchase will become.
By: Annie Klodd, University of Minnesota Extension
Pruning season is almost upon us, this article references common grapevine terminology and requires the reader to have basic knowledge of grapevine pruning. If you are new to pruning, take some time to familiarize yourself with grapevine structure and the basics of pruning.
Does it matter when I pruneduring the dormant season?
If you would like to do some light pruning before the first big snowfall, feel free. If you prefer to wait for sub-zero temperatures to prove something to yourself, that is fine too! Just wait until the vines are fully dormant and the leaves have fallen before you start pruning.
Pruning in the coldest months has an upside. It minimizes the risk of diseases infecting the pruning cuts. When temperatures dip below about 35 degrees F, fungal diseases of grapes are not actively spreading. If you prune early, it is best to do a “long prune.” Leave extra length on each cane in case a severe cold event causes bud damage later on. Additionally, leave a couple of centimeters of wood past the last bud – cold, dry wind can desiccate the wood at the pruning wound.
Late pruning in March and April is certainly more comfortable than deep winter pruning. However it also means you are pruning when fungal pathogens are more active. Be aware that fungal trunk disease pathogens are more active during the spring and will readily enter the wood via those pruning wounds.
How do you decide how many buds per spur to leave during pruning?
The general rule of thumb is to cut each cane down to a 2-3 bud spur. This assumes that all buds are healthy and that the cordon contains one spur every 3-5 inches. If this ideal scenario does not exist on a vine, you can either alter the number of buds per spur or the number of spurs per cordon to account for imperfections.
In cold climates, winter damage usually kills some percentage of the buds on a vine. It is helpful to estimate the percentage of dead buds and adjust your pruning to make up for bud loss.
To measure bud mortality, take a representative sample of canes throughout the vineyard and dissect their buds with a razor blade. The color of the bud’s interior indicates whether they are alive or dead. Buds that are green inside are healthy and will grow into shoots. Buds with brown interiors have died.
Remove between 20-50 normal canes from throughout the vineyard. Bring them inside to room temperature for 24 hours. With a sharp, slim, and clean razor blade, carefully slice off the tip of each bud in the first and second positions along each cane. The bud contains 3 parts – the primary, secondary, and tertiary sections. The primary is the middle and largest section, and it produces the most fruitful shoots. Record whether the primary section of each bud is green or brown (alive or dead), and repeat this with 100 buds. If 10-15% of primary buds are dead, do not adjust your pruning. If 20-40% are dead, leave about 25% more buds than you typically would. If 40-60% dead, double the number of buds you keep. If more than 60% are dead, do minimal pruning, leaving 5 buds on each spur.
Very long spurs are cumbersome – the longer the spur you leave, the higher the chance that only the buds at the very top will break. This is due to a concept called apical dominance. Excessively long spurs also creep up out of the regular fruiting zone, interfering with the structure of the vine. To avoid spur creep while still leaving extra buds, you may instead leave a higher number of 2-3 bud spurs.
Should basal nodes or “non count buds”be accounted for during pruning?
In cold climate hybrid grape growing, yes. In Vinifera vineyards, no.
A basal bud is the bud at the base of the new spur wood. In other words, it is located at the point where the 1-year old part of the spur meets the 2-year old wood.
When it comes to cold hardy hybrid grapes like Marquette and Frontenac, the basal buds are usually fruitful. In fact, they can sometimes be the most fruitful bud on the whole spur. Most of them will carry two cluster per shoot. But this is not the case on vinifera and French-American hybrids, where the basal buds are just vegetative. While the traditional recommendation, which arose from Vinifera vineyards, is to not count the basal bud during pruning, this recommendation is revised for cold climate hybrids where they should be counted. If you leave a basal bud plus two more buds, you will have up to 3 shoots per spur.
Some of my vines are getting old, and I notice that parts of their cordons are missing spurs and canes. What should I do?
We call these empty spots along the cordon “blind wood.” Blind wood happens when old spurs die, and no new buds form from the cordon to replace them. One thing that causes blind wood is winter injury, so it is common in cold regions. Winter injury accumulates over time, so older cordons tend to have more blind wood than newer cordons. In cold climate grape growing, we recommend replacing cordons once they start showing blind wood.
To replace a cordon, first find a healthy new cane that is growing from the base of the cordon or the middle of the vine along the wire. Lay the new cane down alongside the existing cordon, and tie it to the wire. Clip off the end of the cane where the wood is very skinny so that only the healthiest wood remains. If the old cane is totally unproductive, remove it at this time. If it is still producing some fruit, you have the option of leaving it in place and growing the new cordon alongside it, as long as the vine is vigorous enough to support both.
What if the whole vine hasdied back to the ground level?
Extreme dips in winter temperatures sometimes kill the entire aboveground part of the grapevine, including the cordons and trunk. This is even more likely if the vines are stressed going into the winter, either from drought or wet feet. Rest assured that even if the trunk and cordons are dead, the roots are usually still alive and can re-grow a new vine.
If you grow “own-rooted” (non-grafted) vines like University of Minnesota cold hardy hybrids, you can re-grow the vines from suckers rather than planting new vines. Start by cutting the dead or dying trunk back to the ground level. If suckers are present, choose 1-2 of them to become the new trunks.
If the vine was particularly vigorous before it died, you may want to keep extra suckers so that the excess energy from the roots has somewhere to go. The extras can be removed during or at the end of the growing season.
After selecting the suckers that will become your new trunks, prune them back to the point where the wood becomes thicker than pencil diameter. The reason we do this is because the thinnest wood is the least productive and has a high chance of dead buds. Keeping only the healthiest wood helps those vines produce vigorous new trunks and cordons. There is no need to cut the cane back to a 2-bud spur. For example, if the first 4 feet of the cane are healthy and thicker than a pencil, then make your cut 4 feet off the ground.
Should I prune out small pieces ofdead wood like old spurs?
If time permits, pruning out dead spurs is a good idea. They can harbor spores of diseases like powdery mildew and phomopsis that re-infect the vines in the coming season. Pruning out dead wood is one good non-chemical disease management tool.
What is the liquid coming out of thepruning cuts when I prune in the spring?
That liquid is sap! This is a sign that the vines are exiting dormancy. Sap runs through the vines as the soil warms, so that the buds can start actively growing. It is time to wrap up the pruning as the vines “wake up.”
What is a bull cane?
A bull cane is an exceptionally thick, long cane with very wide spaces between buds. They grow more aggressively than regular canes, often growing into the next vine and beyond. Rather than being round, these canes take on a subtle oval shape. They tend to be less winter hardy and less fruitful than normal canes, so they should be removed. If possible, do not use bull canes to establish new trunks. Bull canes tend to grow if the grapevine is too vigorous, such as when a vigorous variety is grown on rich, moist soil.
How do you remove tendrils from the wires?
My best advice for this is: Only have as many wires as you need to trellis the vines. More wire means more tendril magnets. For example, on a Single High Cordon trellis system only one wire is necessary. Do not string any other wires lower down.
For a deeper dive into these Frequently Asked Questions, watch our recorded webinar from the Cold Climate Fruit Webinar Series: