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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Open for business

_ Michael Amigoni is taking his grapes full-circle. Inland Sea Wines, a new Kansas City urban winery, is open for business.

_ Here's another new KC area winery.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Article links

_ "Extreme Viticulture" - growing organically in the northeastern US

_ "Eastern Cab Franc" - here's an article about the varietal I plant to plant. I'm also considering Barbera and Mourvedre. I'm leaning toward the latter...the late budbreak, thick skin and good disease resistance offers appeal.

_ "Hybrid Wines" - The title tells what this blog is about

_ "A Day in the Life of a Missouri Vineyard" - Annother MO vineyard blog

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Dirt work

I need to prepare the soil for planting next spring on our first vineyard bloc. I've been having trouble finding the right implement...I'd like to rip the ground with a chisel plow (or v-ripper) to a depth of 24 inches. I thought it would be a challenge to start a vineyard without owning a tractor. But I caught our neighbor out in a field across from our property where he was discing some ground for winter wheat. He agreed to hit the bloc with the disk, cutting cross ways first and then going against the grain. It'll only be about 12 inches of soil work, but it should at least open up the ground enough for me to lime the bloc this fall and give me some more time to track down a ripper before I plant.

I need to add enough lime to raise the soil pH from 5.5 to 6.2-6.5, which is a better range for vinifera. In these photos you can see my neighbor, Poodle, cutting the edges of the vineyard block. The field has been in pasture grass for as long as anyone can remember, so I should be able to plant right away. If it were row-cropped, I'd want to leave it fallow or cover-crop it to work out any chemicals and add nutrients back into the soil.

In these photos you can see the tractor at work. I also added some lines so that you can see the eventual orientation of the rows. This is an area slightly larger than 1 acre, but it will actually only have an acre of grapes. I need to leave a 30-foot aisle in the middle of the bloc so that the electric company can get to that pole directly in the center.

The advantages of this bloc are its southeast-facing (but mostly south) exposure. The rows are perpendicular to the slope across most of the bloc, though one corner will have rows running directly up the slope. I'll cover crop the aisles with buffalo grass or fescue, so that will help prevent erosion. The bloc is also parallel to the prevailing winds. It's a windy ridge, so this should help with some frost issues as well as with drying out the grapes with the wind blowing down the aisles, which may help with fungus issues.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

TV star

Sharp-eyed viewers will be able to catch my cameo in this local news story, doing what I do best...and here's a hint, it's not the Macarena.

Hanging with the big dogs

I had a bottle of a homemade blended red sitting under my desk at work when a colleage walked by carrying his latest shipment from a well known wine club. The bottle caught his eye and he wound up trading me for a bottle of Lodi-area Cab Sav from his shipment, valued at $15. The bottle I gave him was a blend of 48% Cab Sav from central California (juice) blended with Norton and Chambourcin from my back yard. It was an experiment, and I blended in the Cab Sav to correct some cranked acids in the Norton, but it still was a bit sharp in the finished product. Still, the nose was interesting as you can pick out all three varietals overlapping. The color is good, too, because the Norton was on the skins for two weeks, turning it inky dark in a way that would take an extra-extended maceration in most vinifera.

It just so happend that my friend was heading out that very evening to a meeting of the local "snooty wine club," a monthly dinner where wine is shared. We're talking serious stuff, too. He said that there were bottles worth $75 and $150 on the table, some dating back to the early '90s. He set my humble bottle next to an Oregon pinot, and he undersold it as a home-grown curiosity. He rightly called out the slightly sharp acid and then some thinness in the body. But several of the "snooties" said that he wasn't doing it justice and went back for more. At the end of the night, there was less left in the bottle than the Oregon pinot, a Parker pick worth $60.

I taste this wine and put it squarely in the $5 to $10 class, but perhaps I'm not being fair. Or maybe the folks at the wine dinner were already a bit tipsy. Who knows. In any case it shows that you can do interesting things with blending vinifera with hybrids. And it also shows that there is something crazy, something completely insane going on in wine pricing. The most I've personally ever spent on a bottle of wine is $35. I've found a few brilliant wines in the $15 range, and we have plenty of standbys at $10. And if a $60 bottle sits next to my humble basement blend and doesn't get drained within minutes of the cork coming off, there's something truly amiss.

In any case, it was an interesting experiment, and I was happy to hear the results. In a few years I hope to repeat it with a wine made from a commercial-sized planting of Cabernet Franc, with a touch of Norton (4%) for added color and a bit of Chambourcin (8%) for complexity, and we'll see if a vinifera-hybrid blend has any real promise. Besides the novelty aspect, there are some serious economic advantages to the notion of such a blend, which I'll get into in my next post.