October 19, 2010
Yesterday morning Nicholle, who works at our Farmhouse Inn, came into the kitchen and said “Barbara, there are about 10 deer in the vineyard, don’t you want to keep them out?” It was a honeyed moment for me as I answered “No, they are just eating the grapes.” Actually they were eating the fallen grapes left after harvesting. The growing season is done and now is the time the deer, birds and raccoons are allowed back in the vineyard to graze the cover crop and glean the fallen fruit.
This harvest was spectacular. The majority of the sugars were between 23 and 26 brix, balanced with appropriate acid and healthy pH. In a year with such high sugars I was expecting botrytis to make its appearance at some point… especially since it rained nine out of the eighteen days we harvested the reds. This creepy grey mold is always a topic of conversation amongst growers and is something that we do not like dealing with it at harvest. I have not used chemical botrycides in 2 years and I have not gotten botrytis since, so go figure. Stop using botrycides, stop getting botrytis… hmmm. I think the healthier the “bloom” (native yeast population) is on the berries, the more natural resistance the fruit has towards molding. The only way to keep the bloom on the fruit is to use only low grade controls for fungus thereby avoiding wiping out the native yeast population. This is yet another example of the System Acquired Resistance our vineyard has attained by the methods of farming we use.
Now the vineyard is barren and it is the time of year I visit the vines and thank them for what they have given me. The elegance with which they gift to me their fruit then remain tall and noble is a lesson in the beauty within death, and the living within dying. Most of the time farming is about taking from the land. As winegrowers it is important that we recognize the magnitude of the request that we make of the vines every year. Do the vines know I am thanking them? Perhaps not exactly as a human being would, but gratitude and gifting back completes a circle that would otherwise remain open. In addition to a quiet moment of appreciation to the vines, tomorrow I will feed the soil a tasty cocktail of fish, seaweed, carbon and compost tea. In a couple of weeks I will spread last year’s compost that will mineralize the soil over the cold winter months and in the beginning of January I will treat the periphery of the vineyard with a special mix to welcome the elementals back into the vineyard for another season.
For now, I am happy drinking in the October evening sun watching some of the last of the insects dance a swarm and appreciate the beauty of the vineyard as the leaves slowly turn a bright yellow orange and red.