Vermont Vineyard

May Winds A'Howlin'

It was the evening of Friday, May 4th. We were hosting one of the University of Vermont's public philosophy forums discussion. The topic for the evening was a fitting one: Plato's Symposium, a discourse on objective value and what makes something like wine good. 

Lead by Michael Ashooh, the discussion was picking up. Folks were weighing in about whether knowledge enhances one's ability to determine value. As the conversation really started to roll, so did the weather. Creeping in from the West was a looming wall of clouds making its way across Lake Champlain.

A tree lies across the fence that surrounds Shelburne Museum; a willow has some shattered limbs

A tree lies across the fence that surrounds Shelburne Museum; a willow has some shattered limbs

The rain came down hard and suddenly. In great waves the wind brought heavy rain and quarter inch hail sideways against the glass doors that flank the tasting room. It went from feeling like we were in a lecture hall to being in a ship tossed on a sea during a storm. Rain began to shoot in through the seams of the doors. The power flickered and then went out. 

Warmer weather comes with a classic New England phenomenon: Thunderstorms that come from nowhere. We anticipate at least a few a year that turn the sky green and bring on that feeling of a drop in pressure, the smell of imminent rain. 

This one was a doozy, though. And had it come a couple of weeks later than it did, we could have experienced some severe damage in the buds on the vines. When those tender shoots first start to emerge they are temporarily prone to the likes of hail and 50 mph wind gusts. 

 

A fallen tree in a neighbor's yard

A fallen tree in a neighbor's yard

Many folks in town experienced some serious damage from the winds. The soft, damp earth couldn't hold up some of the larger trees around town. The Shelburne Museum experienced some serious property damage. We feel very lucky that we came off with barely a scratch. 

Vineyard dog Wrigley inspects the damage

Vineyard dog Wrigley inspects the damage

We're looking forward to coming weeks of good weather and a strong start to the growing season! We'll be back soon with updates as the vines begin to grow their shoots!

Post Harvest Update

So often people ask us, “So, what do you do now that the grapes are all picked?”     Our answer comes with wide eyes and a long list of things going on.   So, let’s get into it. 

Harvest is behind us and after a record crop this year (67 tons of our own grapes—a phenomenal yield after a perfect summer) what we do now is as important as the meticulous way we managed the vineyard throughout the growing season to ensure another year of award-winning wines.  

So far we’ve processed the grapes, constantly cleaning to keep the winery immaculate, ensuring no errant yeasts or bacteria spoil the vintage. Fermentation (the changing of the grape sugar into alcohol) is nearly complete.  We’ve also been checking the reds to see if they’ve completed malolactic fermentation, a secondary fermentation that helps soften the acidity and increases their complexity on the palate.   This week we pressed the red grapes that have been fermenting, separating the wine from the skins and transferring most of it to oak barrels. 

 As the wines develop, and even as we began the pressing, we had to decide how to create the final products.   This year we’ve gone wild--wild yeasts that is.  In addition to our favorite traditional varietals and blends, Ethan and the vineyard staff have created a couple of new ones by allowing the wild yeasts that thrive in our vineyard to do the work of fermentation rather than applying the more typical naturally grown laboratory yeasts.  The results will bring two new and slightly different wines to our shelves in the coming months:  Wild Louise and Marquette Untamed. 

We’re also adding another new red to the vineyard family—Crimson Sails—a Marquette that’s unoaked, fruitier and an easy sipper that will sit nicely next to our popular white wine, Lakeview White. 

Ethan’s creativity doesn’t end there.   Thanks to the success of our relatively new bubbly Celestial Louise, we’re going natural, pét nat, as they say in the industry, with two new celebratory bubblies created using the champagne like process péttilant naturel.  Here we’ll bottle and cap the wine while it is still fermenting, letting the fermentation complete in the bottle to produce soft natural bubbles that will suit a romantic meal at home or a special festivity.

Finally, we’ll be producing a new wine from our lovely, aromatic LaCrescent grapes—this one made in the style known as “orange wine.”  Typically white wines are fermented off the skins, but an orange wine ferments the grape while the skins remain.  We’re also allowing the wine to go through malolactic fermentation resulting in a finished wine with no residual sugar giving us a dry white wine with a bigger mouth feel and one that pairs with a very wide variety of foods.

Keep your eyes on our website and newsletter for the release of each of these widely different variations on our Shelburne Vineyard favorites.   Some of them will be very limited releases, so one way to be sure you’ll get to try them is to join our wine club;  others will be in good supply, but stop by often to be sure you get a chance to try them all.   We can’t wait for your feedback.

Humans of the Vine: Winter Work

   For those of you who think we only brave the cold once a winter for our Ice Wine...think again.  Our staff works all winter long tending to the vines and prepping for the warmer months.  Whether it's in the winery or among the vines, our staff are facing some chilly temperatures to keep the operation going.

winter vine and vineyard

winter vine and vineyard

    While only a small portion of our outside work in the winter is harvesting grapes for Ice Wine, a larger ongoing portion of our work is dedicated to pruning.  Pruning involves cutting back the previous year's fruiting cane on the grapevines so that healthy new shoots can grow for fruit production.  Essentially, without proper pruning we wouldn't have grapes, and without grapes, we wouldn't have wine!  I shudder at the thought! Since pruning is an essential part of vine care and maintenance, that means we have to consistently send our crew out to complete this process, regardless of the frigid temperatures and conditions.

pruning outside blog

pruning outside blog

       Not only when they're out among the vines, but even in our winery this time of year, the wine-making crew can be exposed to below average temperatures.  The wine being made does best in 50-60 degree Fahrenheit temperatures for stability and to prevent premature aging.  Therefore, the thermostat must remain within that range, meaning working inside even requires thermal layers. But we certainly wouldn’t force our crew to work in the cold without providing boot warmers and plenty of hot coffee to keep them going.

boot & winery

boot & winery

     Winter work at the vineyard isn't always for the faint of heart. A lot of frosty faces, chapped lips, and icy hands go into making what we do here possible, and we wouldn't be here without all of their hard work.  Ice Wine harvest is all fun and games compared to the other, sometimes grueling, winter work that our crew is oh so familiar with this time of year.

snow footprints

snow footprints

Authored By: Beth Abbott