Wow, what an up-and-down crazy season here in Niagara-on-the-Lake. We started out with 25C weeks in March, which made us extremely nervous as our pruning was only 30% complete, followed with a cold snap in April of 12C weeks and further followed with excessive heat and zero moisture in May and June. We were charting incredible degree day growth which was outpacing the 10-year average and leading us to an extra early harvest but with the cooler days in July we are trending to a harvest time similar to last year. We had started to trickle irrigate as the vines needed moisture over bloom to set fruit but now in July we are experiencing small showers every 2 or 3 days so we are holding off on the watering. We are not getting any great amount of moisture at one time but it is aggravating and as you know when it is cloudy the sun is not shining through to the leaves. We just had a little localized hail but minimal damage so not to worry as the cracked berries will dry up and fall off. Is it me or did the pool feel warmer in June than in July? Not to worry the canopy is full of healthy leaves and the crop load is an average year so we are still very excited about the quality of the 2021 crop.
Quite a few things to report on with the first one being that this will be the last year that we offer Kerner juice as the vines are getting quite old and the production is dropping considerably. We will be replacing this vineyard with Pinot Gris, a variety that we just can’t get enough of. If Kerner or the VKR blend is your favourite then order extra! Because of this our VKR blend will be no longer but rather VGR . Yes the G will be gewurztraminer, but we are looking for your advice as to whether or not it should remain at 25% or would it be better to drop to 15% and put 10% more Riesling in? We definitely want to maintain the 50/50 blend of hybrid and vinifera. Thoughts?
Another bit of new information is our website which I am sure by now most of you have visited it and realized that there is a new look as well as being mobile and tablet friendly. It is not complete as we will be adding many new photos and adding content throughout the fall and into winter. If you have a concern or idea about the site then please let us know as it is here for us all. Please have a look at it and familiarize yourself especially where to access the grape line for harvest and juice pick up information.
We have made a change in the vineyard fungicide program by replacing all of the sulphur applications with oil applications. Oil is on the organic side of the ledger and has many advantages including the smothering of any powdery mildew break outs and insect control. Today we will spray an oil application to see if it controls leaf hoppers and those pesky japanese beetles. With the departure of sulphur we are losing that aweful smell and our vineyard workers are much happier.
The final and to us the most important new information is the addition of Casey to our family. After the very sudden good bye to our fantastic and loyal friend Crosby we weren’t sure if we could handle going through all that again but with several family meals, laughing and crying about the adventures of Cros we realized that we need a dog and that the farm truly is the best place to be. Casey is still a pup and is slowly learning so please be patient with him especially with his “jumping up”.
As far as the rest of the family is concerned, we are all doing well. Cathy works off the farm, and she says more importantly “away from me”, 2 days a week as well as arranging all the mail orders, posting the juice orders, packageing the supplies and book keeping for both our businesses. Allie is now working 4x 10h at the Walker Family Cancer Centre and the other 2 days on the farm. Connor is on the farm as well as running a GPS grapevine planter for another company. He will be returning to Guelph in Sept for his final year, so you will be stuck with Cathy, Allie and myself again this year at harvest.
Again this season we will be short on the reds so if you place an order for all red then it will be rejected. The exceptions would be if its only for 1 to 4 pails as thats all you make, or in the past been huge white purchasers and taking a bit of a break. We are looking for opportunities to increase our red production so hopefully this issue will pass shortly. The newly planted Cab Franc are looking great and will be producing next year. With regards to covid and farm visits in the fall for supplies and juice, our preference would be to have the store available for you to shop but as you know the air circulation in the room is very poor. The worst case scenario is we will operate as we did last year with curbside pickup. I think it’s fair to say that we will all be watching the number of cases in the province and we will make the best decision, with this in mind, a week before retail commences.
See you in the fall,