Raven's Call

Raven's Call
Haida Raven

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

2008 Vintage at Ram's Head Vineyard and Winery

Well, we harvested our 2008 "crop" at the newly dubbed "Ram's Head Vineyard and Winery" in early October. Only 26 of the (well, first year, after all) Madeleine Angevine plants had grapes, so it was a very limited harvest. Here is the entire crop:

Still, we decided not to waste these first precious grapes (having not yet ever tasted Mad Ang wine!), so we crushed by hand and put it in a fermenter.

And yes, sadly that is a 1-gallon carboy, so the final yield was just one 500-ml bottle of 2008 Estate bottled Madeleine Angevine from Ram's Head. (Our logo ram, Chico).But the good news is, that after fermenting, stabilizing, fining and resting for a month, when we cracked the half-liter at our family Thanksgiving day feast, it was... not bad! This is very encouraging as we have 50 or so plants of this variety, so were hoping for "drinkable" results.

In preparation for the future harvests here at Ram's Head we also obtained a vintage grape crusher off eBay:

and after completely disassembling, blasting, cleaning, refinishing and then building a hopper, the final result looks pretty good.

Then, after we bought 100 pounds of merlot grapes from eastern Washington, I decided I better have a grape press too.

Although it was tempting to buy a vintage press, the clean-up task seemed daunting. New presses seemed, to me, to be overpriced, so I tried building my own. I must say that it turned out alright. After a first test revealed my design flaws, and these were remedied, here is the final product.

Well, I say final, but a discerning eye may note that the framework is softwood - which just won't do. I will rebuild the framework this winter in oak. But I have plenty of time until next fall's grape crop!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Starting my new vineyard

After my son gave me a wine-making kit for the holidays, and after encouragement from a friend and colleague at work, I decided to try growing my own wine grapes. After studying materials on the internet, and in particular the materials from WSU experiment station at Mt. Vernon, WA, I chose two varieties that are supposed to do well in our area (Puget Sound region of Washington State).

I obtained about 50 cuttings of a white, Madeleine Angevine, from Lopez Island Winery, and another 50 or so of a red, Regent, from a grower in Grapeview WA. My colleague at work (whose small vineyard is in Vancouver, WA) provided cuttings from his prunings of Pinot noir, Pinot blanc, and Dolcetto.

After rooting all these cuttings, with very good success, in a cold frame I chose a grassy area out in the front of our property and borrowed our neighbors 3-point posthole digger and started digging holes.

Planting on 10-Jun-08

After planting about 250 plants, watering them in, and giving them a few weeks, they really started taking off. Here they are in early July.

Quite a few of the Madeleine Angevine flowered, and even though all advise to remove these, I want to let them produce grapes even the first year.

We have had some pretty warm weather this summer and by 10-Aug-08 they were coming along just fine. Each plant has a bamboo stake to train the upright stem.

And by late August, they have really started to shoot upward. The grape clusters are really starting to fill out. I pruned leaves away from each cluster to increase air circulation and to give more sunlight to promote ripening.

About 25 of the 40 Madeleine Angevine plants have grape clusters, so if the birds don't get them, I may have enough for a small batch of wine! Only 3 or 4 of the Regents (a red) have grapes, so no wine from them this year.