Thursday, June 21, 2007

Vineyard Obstacles or Challenges?

The rush to create vineyards and wineries in British Columbia has led to some polarized dialogue over the subject of suitable places to create wine.

Recent arrivals to the industry see no problem developing vineyards in locations that the previous wave of vignerons would have rejected outright.

Why the change? How do unsuitable locations suddenly become prime grape growing areas?

Part of the answer lies in economics. If a bottle of wine can sell for three times the price it was selling for only a few short years before then there is an impetus on the producer to pull out all the stops in an effort to create that wine.

I'm often asked by prospective winery owners and investors whether this portion of land or that one will be good for grapes. While I am flattered that they would ask my opinion, it's prudent to remind them that I'm not a viticulturist or a biologist or a geologist; all specializations that are valuable in choosing sites. In my short time in the business I have learned a couple things.

With that disclaimer I do offer up this: growing grapes on a commercial scale is all about minimizing and maximizing what had been dealt.

Once the decision is made to obtain land and develop a vineyard, it's important to minimize the challenges that the environment presents. It's just as important to maximize the advantages that the prospective vineyard demonstrates. Besides the obvious things like soil and sun there are other aspects like access and curb appeal that may influence production. These are economic factors that may ultimately effect the performance of the vineyard.

A while ago I heard an Okanagan grower remark, "I don't know where these new guys (wineries) are going to get their grapes; all the good land is gone." . In a conventional sense he may be close to the truth. Common practice and history are factors that define what a vineyard looks like. Under those old parameters, a lot of vineyard property is in short supply.

What new developers are beginning to see is that marginal properties are the key to new vineyards.

Marginal land can simply be described as second choice land. Something makes it less attractive and presents a challenge to the grower or the wallet when it comes to developing it as a vineyard. The trick is to see where the challenge can be met and have a vision for the outcome.

A few years ago I was told by a friend in California that a friend of his who lived in Napa was approached by a winery to plant grapes in his front yard. It was a nice property but only about 100 feet deep in the front and 70' wide. Hardly a prospective vineyard in the normal sense.

So what prompted the offer?

Were the soils exemplary?
Was he adjacent to a stellar vineyards?
Was it close to the winery's front door?

The reason was the appellation or geographical indicator. Simply being in Napa allowed the value of these grapes to be far greater than similar grapes grown in another county. The Napa brand has soared to such heights as to allow mini-vineyards and such to be feasible.

This, in a diluted form, is what is happening in the Okanagan and, to a lesser extent, the rest of B.C.

Next time somebody says you can't grow grapes in THAT location, ask about the hurdles in the path of that goal and determine what can be overcome and what can be emphasised.

Too much water? Create better drainage, enhance the soil change the aspect, modify your root stock.
Land slopes north? Change it with earth movers. Pick your varietal, modify the trellis.

Those are just a few examples. Developments in land management over the past 30 or 40 years have allowed marginal lands to become prime. Add to that the prospect of climate change and the expansion of BC vineyard operations looks to continue for some time.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Safety Meeting called.

Our first 'safety meeting' of the season at Township 7 Okanagan has been inked for Friday, July 6, beginning around 4:30 pm. We're at 1450 McMillan, Penticton. (On the way to Naramata)

We invite all wine types. If you're reading this on this blog then it probably means you. Although dominated by Benchites, we frequently see travellers and visitors and friends of friends. It's all very casual. We generally provide some snacks and suds but people are encouraged to bring wine to share (including cellar work in progress) and whatever they'd like to hear on our sophisticated sound system.
It's inside/outside depending on the weather.
Be prepared to discuss:

Forklift Beverage Holders: The Next Generation
Beer O'Clock: From Concept to Standard Operating Procedure.
Beautiful People on the Pad (BPP): A Welcome Addition or Dangerous Distraction?
The Blue Factor: Why Is He Always in the Way?

Bring your own dissertation or Power Point presentation if you'd like.

Possibly write a poem for presentation about wine, safety and summer.

Hope to see lots of new faces!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Killdeer chicks hatched.

Killdeer chicks hatched., originally uploaded by Dexwriter.

Three out four ain't bad!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Killdeer in the Vineyard

We've got a nesting pair of these in the middle of the Gewurztraminer block at Township 7 Okanagan this spring. There's four eggs in the ground nest right beside a trellis post. When we get too close in our work, the nearest adult bird puts on the traditional broken wing display in an attempt to lure us from the critical nesting area. Dead serious for the bird, very funny for the humans.

Planting Anyone?

I know it's short notice but if anyone cares to join us at Township 7 Okanagan tomorrow, we could use your help.
We're doing some Chardonnay replants. We offer a few bucks, some beer and our eternal gratitude.
Come by around nine in the morning if you're so inclined. Prepare to get dirty.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Shauna and James

Shauna and James, originally uploaded by Dexwriter.

New Chard

New Chard, originally uploaded by Dexwriter.

The Cerqueira team

The Cerqueira team, originally uploaded by Dexwriter.