Browsing CategoryNorth Country

RobMcDowell

North Country wine growers and cold climate viticulture lost a visionary, sharp witted, friend, colleague and sometimes antagonist when Rob McDowell passed away earlier this month on December 13th. Rob grew and operated Purple Gate Vineyard in Plattsburgh and was one of the first people to dedicate serious efforts to the propagation of cold hardy hybrids in the Lake Champlain Valley of New York. Rob was a founding member of the local wine community and shared generously of his knowledge at site visits, meetings and workshops, with locals and visitors alike, some who would go on to become growers and winemakers…

swenson

Elmer Swenson is a respected and nearly mythical figure in the cold climate wine growing community, but do we ever wonder what force was behind his success? He had his own motivations for breeding grapes which developed at an early age, and then later in life he greatly expanded the vine breeding work of prior generations. His ‘amateur’ vine propagation began in 1943 and continued when he was a dairy farmer and had full responsibility for the family operation. Upon retirement from dairy, Elmer went to work for the University of Minnesota as a fruit nurseryman and eventually, grape breeder. When he retired again, he continued…

todd-piece

2014 was what most vacationers would describe as a pretty ideal summer and subsequent transition into autumn. Crop load in the north country has been good on those plants that had healthy wood after the bone-chilling winter. The season was marked by beautiful clear days and sporadic rains when we needed them.  It was good sleeping weather at night and it never really got too hot which was great for camping but a bit of a challenge for the grapes.  Sugar levels were behind and  worked their way up, but slow grape maturity had been holding pH readings low and Titratable Acidity (TA) high,…

north-country-terroir

Harvest is closing in fast and winery tasks are in high gear, whether it be crush pad prep or the bottling of last year’s vintages. From large producers to little amateur outfits like our own, the story is the same as one season rolls quickly into the next, and what comes in through one door must pass out another and make room in between. While I was bench testing blends for the 2013 whites, I got to thinking about a very interesting and informative cold-climate tasting from earlier this summer, when it seemed like we still had all the time…

ChamplainAVA-NewYorkCorkReport

Conveying a sense of place has become a real priority for fine wine, no matter where in the world it is grown. Wine has the responsibility of not only needing to taste and smell good, but for afficianados and for marketing purposes it is expected to also serve as a reliable ambassador for its region of origin. It’s supposed to mean something when you see a unique place name on a bottle’s label, and before long it just might mean that it is coming from New York’s North Country. Producers way upstate have worked together and an AVA application has…

La Crosse with healthy flowers after a very cold winter.

La Crosse is a grape from the cold climate quiver that is a pet favorite of mine. Having worked with it in the Cornell trial vineyard and in and the home winery for a few vintages, I’m intrigued by what smells and tastes like potential. It’s yet another of the Elmer Swenson-propagated diaspora of hybrid vines which offer options and hope to winemakers who grow and press  in places that are USDA Zone 5 and below. A complex hybrid offspring of Seyval Blanc, and named for the Wisconsin city on the Mississippi,  it offers some improvements upon its parent, and…

beaver_damage

Word from the North Country has been relatively good as regards vine damage, based on early random bud samples and their reported survival rates after the deep cold that was delivered this winter. Once we get out into the vineyard to do the pruning, and we visit every vine, that’s when you get a true picture of what is going on. In this particular case, the visual I got was a real shocker. The buds may have held up,  but while working a couple of Lake Champlain Valley vineyards in NY and VT, we found some pretty significant trunk damage.…

NYCR_saratoga_Wine

The last snow piles are finally melted after a long winter in the North Country, and while the the season may have been oppressive, those intrepid enough to dwell in it are rebounding with a vigor of surprising quality. This exuberance was evident at the Saratoga City Center this past Saturday when nearly a thousand visitors poured into the inaugural Taste of Upstate event to explore what the region has to offer. In a similar vein, good reports have been pouring in regarding the fortitude of the cold-climate fruits planted in these areas, and of how well they’ve handled a…

Photo courtesy of northcountrypublicradio.org

Viticulture and winemaking are not static fields of knowledge. They are continually expanding in scope, breadth and depth. It can take a lot of effort for professionals, hobbyists and curious consumers to educate themselves in the many facets of these studies, and stay abreast of new developments. A webinar series sponsored by the Northern Grapes Project is making it a lot easier for folks to stay in the game without having to leave the farm or winery to do it. I’ve attended a number of these webinars over the last couple of years and have found them very valuable in…

NYCR-Frontenac_Gris_Blanc_Close

It was very tempting to approach this subject indirectly through a wine science fiction sort of allegory. The tale of a race decimated by plague and forced to breed with other relative species in order to survive. The social stigmas faced by the viable offspring:  the challenges of relocation and settling of new lands,  the strange and divergent characteristics that began to appear in subsequent generations. It’snot far off, as a version of the inter-specific hybrid grapevine story, and of the unexpected mutants that currently exist among us, in the form of the cold climate grape called Frontenac. The Frontenac grape…