Raven's Call

Raven's Call
Haida Raven

Monday, October 11, 2010

Regent Harvest and Crush

2010 Regent Harvest at Raven's Call Vineyard - 23 pounds of grapes.
Although we've had very cool weather, so not much ripening of the Regent grapes here at Raven's Call Vineyard, it has also been rainy, and more predicted, with continuing cool temperatures. There do not seem to be any berries splitting yet, even though Brix by refractometer shows 12-15% sugar. Close inspection of the vineyard shows some clusters have fallen off, a few berries are shriveling or rotting (not many, though), and the birds are getting a few where they found some accessible under the netting. So time harvest, I decided.
Regent crop on best 3rd-year plants
 A nice Regent cluster.
 My field assitant harvesting.
 Total crop - 23 lbs off of about 20 plants vigorous enough to fruit.
 Mysterious "floating-grapes" photo.
 Cleaning clusters and crushing.
 Primary fermenter - just under 2 gallons must.
The Brix, by refractometer, on the free-run juice only tests at 14%, so I chapalitized up to 23. I also warmed the must up to about 80 degrees F to get the fermentation off to a better start (since low 80s are recommended for reds, and my batch is too small to generate enough warmth on it's own to keep the temperature up there). Sure smells good once the fermentation kicked in!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

COOL... literally

2010 Grape Growing Degree Days

It’s been a pretty dismal grape growing season here in Puget Sound, and apparently all across the state (and up and down the west coast, so I hear). This chart from the WSU Viticulture site shows that 2010 is about as bad as it has ever been (in 18 years of recorded history, of course..). (The WSU-IAREC headquarters are in Prosser, WA.)
Remember that Puget Sound AVA is pretty pitiful, historically, compared to eastern WA AVAs.

And then (at least at Mt. Vernon, which is the reported reference station for Puget Sound on the WSU site), this year has been equally below the long-term average.

But when I download the raw data from the station close to our vineyard (WSU Puyallup station – only 0.90 miles from our place), and compare to Mt. Vernon, it shows we are doing considerably better here than Mt. Vernon.

We are just below 1,600 GDD, and not likely to gain too much more. Unfortunately I have not yet found where to download the long-term average for the WSU Puyallup station, so cannot say specifically how this year compares with average at this location, but I am certain it is proportionally as bad as other locations have been.
Still, after all the charts, it's good to remember that it's all about the fruit:
Pinot noir at Raven's Call Vineyard


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Madeleine Angevine Crushed!

Time to harvest.
Yes, Mad Ang was picked and crushed. I have been chagrined at how rapidly the fruit quality is declining. While they were nicely cropped:
Madeleine Angevine 2010 Crop
 as shown below, with the recent rains, many berries were splitting, then they rapidly rotted. Even though last year I vowed to let them hang longer to get the sugar content up (last year we hit 16.5 Brix),  I decided I had better pick if I was going to salvage anything.
About 10 to 20% of the fruit is rotting on the vine.
 First we picked the 8 vigorous plants that had no cluster thinning. The yield was 24 pounds of fruit. For 3rd year crop, 3 pounds per plant is not bad. Even steady-state mature plants should probably only give about 4 pounds per plant, given what I've read.
24 pounds Mad Ang from 8 unthinned 3-year plants
 Then we picked 12 more plants of similar vigor, but for which I thinned each shoot to just the one main cluster per shoot. This yielded 28 pounds (shown in opening photo), or 2.3 pounds per plant. Logically, less. However, I could detect no difference in size, amount of rot, nor sugar content. Both these first two batches were crushed and measured separately, and they were the same Brix... 16.5, just like last year.  With the 17 pounds more from the straggler plants, the total 2010 harvest was 69 pounds. The rotten berries were tediously picked out by hand, then we crushed.
The crush
Not having a de-stemmer, we did it the old-fashioned way, by hand.
Stems on left, crush in center, must on left.
 The must was left on the skins overnight, then pressed the next morning. This supposedly give enzymes a chance to break down some of the cells, releasing more juice on the crush, but without giving time for bitter components to come of of the skins. The newly-built press worked like a charm! Guess building a prototype was a worthwhile effort.
The press
 All done - must ready to ferment on the right. Just over 4 gallons. Pressed skins on the left go on the compost pile.
4 gallons 2010 Madeleine Angevine must ready to ferment
 The vineyard looks sad without fruits.
Naked vineyard.
 But the Regents are still hanging in there. Should be a couple more weeks before we pick them. They show no signs of splitting, even though the sugar content has been nearly as high as the Mad Ang. Must have thicker skins.
 The Mad Ang must was pretty high in acid, and low in sugar content. It was chaptalized up to 21.5 Brix, but no adjustment to acidity. We'll see.