Thursday, March 5, 2009

Out in the vineyard, it's time to prune

So what is happening in your favorite vineyard long about now? More perhaps than you realized. Write sowner and winemaker Joanne Levengood in the latest e-blast from Manatawny Creek Winery in Douglassville, Pa.:

"What is happening in the vineyard during the winter? The grapevines go dormant in November and will remain in their dormant state until budbreak sometime in late April or early May. While the vines are dormant, pruning takes place. Pruning is a huge job where each of the approximately 25 shoots per vine are cut back to 2 buds. These 2 buds contain the 2 shoots for the next growing season and there are typically 2 grape clusters per shoot. Pruning is necessary in order to maintain the size and shape of the vine and to ensure consistent productivity. If a vine is left unpruned, it will become unruly and out of control, fruit production will decrease, and the quality of the fruit will severely decline due to too much vegetation. The best quality grapes are from a balanced grapevine and pruning is essential to achieve this balance."

Allegro: Tanks busier than last year this time

Checked in Thursday with winemaker and owner Carl Helrich of Allegro Vineyards on how they fared during the first weekend of Tour de Tanks. That event will continue on weekends through the end of this month. Here's what he had to say.

"Yeah, we had a busy weekend. Busier than last year this time. We're tasting Chardonnay, Merlot and Chambourcin in the cellar with the visitors. The first two are wine varieties that I think will speak for our region. I am offering the Chambourcin as a counterpoint.

"We always enjoy being on the Tour de Tanks trail. It let's folks experience all the wineries side-by-side. Our customer base has exploded because of this event because a lot of wine drinkers in this area never came out to the Brogue before. Our sales in this remote area grew significantly last year, even with the slowing economy and the $4/gallon gas prices."

Boordy's Cab Franc figures to be excellent stew

What I didn’t ask Rob Deford of Boordy Vineyards in Hydes, Md., was how long it takes to invent the names for some of their monthly events. One example is this month’s, a Stew in Our Juices promotion that features stews made with Boordy wine. This comes on the heels of its February promotion, called Fond of You Fondue.

“We just got the highest compliment,” Deford said by phone yesterday afternoon. “We just saw another winery has picked that name up in Virginia.”

Deford said business through this dark stretch since the holiday, both literally and economically, has been good. “People seem to recognize that coming here is an antidote to spending a lot of money on a cruise ship,” he deadpanned. “We seem to be in good shape.”

Waiting on the horizon are the annual events at the winery and festivals around Maryland. Also sitting around is Boordy’s ’07 Cab Franc, which Deford said has turned him into an overanxious parent.

“It looks to be just wonderful,” he said. “That was the vintage that was really quite perfect in every way. The franc has lots of wonderful qualities to it.”

There’s not a whole lot, only in the vicinity of 1,200 gallons that Deford said is out of a total production of 90,000. That small amount translates to about 500 cases. There are a couple of reasons for the limited supply.

“It s limited to basically what the acreage in our 1 acre vineyard produces, in Burkittsville, that’s out near Frederick, and there’s a guy over the hill, a very capable producer, who produces a little bit for us as well,” Deford said. “That’s what limits it. We’re doing extreme crop management levels with the consequence that it’s just not a lot of wine.”

Expect the release sometime in April and May. Deford said the lot will sell out, as it typically does, and not necessarily overnight. “We don’t put a big push on it just because it’s going to run out, it does every year,” he said. “We don’t take it around to a lot of places.”

Deford said a bottle of the Cab Franc typically sells for $14. “We’re trying to just hold the line,” he said. “I am constantly humbled by the wines that are out there at reasonable prices, and I guess you can play that game many ways. But I always feel like I’m building for the next hundred years, and I really want Maryland wines to be viewed, and regional, forget the political boundaries, to be viewed as real contenders in the value sector.”

This one, he said, should be one of those contenders. “So many things can happen to a wine that can either surprise you on the upside or downside,” he said. “But right now it’s looking like it will be a very nice bottle of wine.”