My Article in Michigan Uncorked

I would like to invite you to view my article about Saperavi in the Spring 2020 issue of Michigan Uncorked. An online version of the magazine can be accessed by going to http://michiganuncorked.com and clicking on the Spring issue link on the home page to read the free flip-page edition (I’m on page 6 + 7) or use this link to go directly to the front cover of the magazine http://online.fliphtml5.com/hllky/gjob/#=6This is an edited version of an article that appears in the Spring 2020 issue of the American Wine Society Wine Journal.

Thanks to Michigan Uncorked’s Editor-in-Chief Jim Rink for the opportunity to share my story with the readers of Michigan Uncorked. I hope you enjoy the article and it provides you a bit of relief from the uncertainty and stressful times we are experiencing. Be prudent and stay safe! 

 

 

 

First Cut is the Deepest

When I arrived at the farm on Deer Field Road in Mount Pleasant, PA

Beautiful & productive vines like these are the result of careful pruning. Photo courtesy of Greendance Winery

that Sand Hill Berries and Greendance – The Winery at Sand Hill both call home, the windchill was hovering near O° and a thin layer of snow covered the ground. Rick Lynn had invited me to his vineyard to show me how he uses the VPS (Vertical Shoot Pruning) technique to prune his Marquette vines. Vintners prune their grape vines every year to make them more productive and to control how the vine develops during the growing season. The trimming is done during the winter when the vines are dormant. Pruning is a cold and labor intensive job that is essential to the success of the current year’s crop but is also necessary for the training and development of the vines for the future. Rick demonstrated how last year’s growth is removed and two of the best canes are left to be bent and attached to the trellis wire. The vine shoots that grow from the cane that was tied to the lower trellis wire are then trained to grow upward by having them attach themselves to catch wires above the cordon wire (lowest wire). The vines proceed to grow upward in a vertical curtain with the fruiting zone below the canopy. On the day we were pruning a lot of old growth had to be removed because Marquette vines are known for their vigorous growth. Greendance uses the VSP method on all of their vines except the American varieties (Vitis labrusca).

VSP pruning is the most common pruning method for cool-climate wine grapes but it is by no means the only one. Rick and I discussed some new ideas for managing vines in the field. I found the practice of planting vines very close together, about two feet apart, then pruning every vine back to one cane and tying down that cane to the right one year then doing the same the next year but tying the one cane to the left and continuing to alternate direction every year.

Another intriguing idea is “Wild Tail” pruning. Wild tail pruning leaves all the buds on the lateral cane that is tied to the cordon wire so the end buds develop first and delays the budding of the lower buds to protect them from a late frost. After all danger of frost has pasted you walk the vineyard and clip off all the “Wild Tails” back to the number of buds you want on each lateral. I am extremely curious to see if these methods would be successful in a cool-climate vineyard.

The goal of my visit was two-fold and with the first part completed we now turn our attention to the second part, Greendance’s planting of Petite Pearl. If you haven’t heard of the Petite Pearl wine grape you’re not alone. This hybrid grape from renowned Minnesota grape breeder Tom Plocher is just beginning to take root in Minnesota, Wisconsin and across the Midwest where it’s cold tolerance is greatly appreciated. I will be posting about my barrel tasting of Greendance Petite Pearl soon.

 

Shocking

     You may have heard the term “Bottle Shock” and didn’t know what it is or what causes it. Bottle shock refers to a condition when wine exhibits symptoms from getting too much air mixed into it in a very short time.  When this happens the wine will lack character in all respects.

This condition normally affects wine during the bottling process. Bottling is the most common cause of bottle shock because wine can easily absorb more oxygen than normal while being moved to a bottle and become saturated. Rough handling of bottled wine can also result in bottle shock because shaking the bottle can also mix air into the wine.

The good news is that bottle shock is temporary. After a few weeks of rest the ill effects will subside leaving the wine to not only recover but develop into a more complete

Barrel Room: Savage Wines Cape Town, South Africa

 wine than it was before the extra oxygen was introduced. The reason for this fortuitous transformation is that wine needs oxygen to age but it needs it added very slowly. Natural corks are perfectly suited to do this because air can penetrate them in such minuscule amounts that the oxygen can be gradually absorbed by the wine and not be overwhelmed by it causing the aging process to get out of balance.

     If you are patient with a bottle you think is suffering from bottle shock you will be rewarded for your patience with a wine that is better than it was before it got “SHOCKED”   

A Very Happy Hour @ Ripepi Winery

     The second Friday of the month is a very special time at Ripepi Winery Monongahela, Pa. It’s special because that’s the monthly Happy Hour from 5 – 8 PM. If you would like to enjoy a good Pa. wine with friendly people in a festive winery setting mark your calendar for these events. You’ll get to meet Rich Ripepi and his stellar staff while tasting Ripepi’s large selection of wines.

When you visit be sure to talk with owner/winemaker Rich Ripepi. His warm and welcoming personality will make you feel right at home. Take advantage of the opportunity to discuss wine and wine grapes with him. He possesses an encyclopedic knowledge on the subject and is one of the very few Western Pennsylvania wine makers that grows his own wine grapes. Take a minute before you enter the tasting room to savor the view of his ten acre vineyard next to the winery.

During our conversation on that Friday evening Rich told me his vineyard had made it  through this past winter in good shape but had experienced an unusual frost event after the flowers had emerged. Rich and I went out into the vineyard where he showed me how frost had covered the ground and coated the tops of the vines roughly five feet above the

Frost Damage

ground. The strange thing was that there was a zone between three and four feet off the ground that did not frost. The flowering tops of the vines in that zone remained frost-free and undamaged despite the lack of overstory growth to protect them. What caused this curious phenomenon is hard to say but while a frost is never welcome it didn’t damage enough of the flowers to have a negative effect on this years crop.

Rich pointed out the young Cabernet Sauvignon vines he had planted to replace the “Old” Cab vines he had lost to winter damage a couple of years ago. While his new Cab vines continue to mature Rich will buy Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from the Lanza Vineyard in California. The Lanza Vineyards are in the Suisun Valley just east of Napa Valley. Grapes from Lanza are used to produce the exceptional wines of the Wooden Valley Winery. Pete Abdulovic, winery manager at Ripepi told me an interesting side note on their grape purchase. During a recent visit to the Napa Valley he made a stop in the Suisun Valley and when he was tasting there he heard that the Caymus Winery had leased a considerable

Lanza Vineyards Suisun Valley, California Photo Courtesy : Pete Adbulovic

amount of vineyard acreage surrounding the Lanza Vineyards and throughout the Suisun Valley to supply grapes for their iconic Caymus wines. It will be very interesting to follow the transformation of these grapes from start to finish and taste what characteristics Rich can coax out of them. 

At the end of the evening as we were saying our goodbyes Rich told me he had ordered Saperavi vines to plant in a one half acre section of his vineyard from Grafted Grapevine Nursery Clifton Springs, NY. He was hopeful that they would be able to fill his order because the demand for these vines has created a supply shortage. The increasing popularity of this grape is due in large part to the very good wine that the only four North American producers of Saperavi are offering to the public. When Rich gets his vines he will become the second vineyard in Pennsylvania to grow Saperavi commercially joining Fero Vineyards & Winery in Lewisburg. Chuck Zaleski, owner/winemaker of Fero planted his first Saperavi vines in 2010 and released his first vintage from the 2013 harvest.

 

Bella Terra Vineyards

bella-terra     When Jay & Joanna Bell’s love for winemaking outgrew their basement they had a decision to make. They had to decide whether to restrain their passion for winemaking or dive head first into the vineyard and winery business. Luckily for us they chose the latter. They didn’t just dip their toes into the waters of the winemaking pond they built their own 3 acre lake on their 17 acre property in Hunker, Pa at 121 Sunny Lane. They also built a winery with a tasting room, a lakeside stage where bands perform, a large parking lot and planted a vineyard with 380 vines divided between 5 varieties. A planned event center is on the drawing board with a start date in the near future. That is quite an achievement considering they became Western Pennsylvania’s newest winery when they opened in September of 2016.

The first thing Jay pointed out as we entered the winery were the carboys filled with the wine he will be using to make his blends. They were neatly aligned and separated into reds and whites. In the corner of the winery stood a large stainless steel tank. When Jay lifted the lid to show me the contents the unmistakable aroma of yeast at work filled the room. The yeast in that tank was working to make Bella Terra’s Sweet Diamond wine. Jay turned and pointed at a barrel rack filled with American Oak barrels. With a smile he couldn’t contain he began to talk in glowing terms about the Chardonnay aging in those barrels as being something “Special” 

 

Bella Terra’s wine list offers 8 wines that range from the dry Peridot, Ives, Raspberry Cabernet and Reserve to a semi-sweet Riesling and finishing with their popular sweet offerings of Sunday Afternoon, Duvall and the best-selling Sweet Finlay, named after their adorable little daughter. While his young vineyard matures Jay sources his grapes from growers around Lake Erie and the Finger Lakes Wine Region of New York as well as a vineyard in the Napa Valley area of California.

Bella Terra Vineyards is now closed for the winter but will be reopening for its first full season on May 6th, 2017. More information is available online at these resources: Facebook  website:http://bellaterravineyards.com  Instagram: bellaterravineyards  Email: jay@bellaterravineyards.com

DeChaunac Anyone?

DeChaunac Wine Grape: Photo Courtesy: doubleavineyards.com

DeChaunac Wine Grape: Photo Courtesy: doubleavineyards.com

     If you have ever tasted or even heard of DeChaunac you probably have been to the Northeastern U.S., Nova Scotia or Ontario, Canada. DeChaunac is a French-American hybrid red wine grape developed by legendary French hybridizer Albert Seibel (1844-1935). This grape is also known as Seibel 9549 and is believed to be a cross between Seibel 5163 and Siebel 793. It was named after Ontario, Canada wine industry pioneer Adhemar de Chaunac, but in a strange twist of fate, may not be bottled as a varietal under Canada’s VQA system.

     When you first see DeChaunac your eyes will deceive you. After seeing this wines very dark and inky color in your glass you will be surprised by the light to medium body of such a dark wine. In my opinion a well-made DeChaunac will have a solid structure to carry complex flavors of black and red cherries, blackberry and prune with a bit of a musty nose.

     This wine can be blended with other wine to impart an “aged” characteristic but the blend must be kept at or below 7% or it can through the wine off according to J. Stephen Casscels, author of “Wine Grapes of the Hudson Valley and Other Cool Climate Regions of the United States and Canada”http://flintminepress.com

    Now that we have explored the heritage of the DeChaunac wine grape and discussed the wines made from it you might be curious about how it tastes. DeChaunac is not produced as widely as it once was but with a little research you can still find some excellent product.  Here are two examples of how a wine made from the same variety of grapes in different styles can yield wines with similar but unique characteristics. The following are two fine Pennsylvania grown and made DeChaunac.

Ripepi DeChaunac: Dry oak-aged red wine made in a Chianti-style with medium body displaying flavors of black fruit complemented by velvety tannins and a lingering finish.    

Ripepi Winery 93 Van Voorhis Lane  Monongahela, Pa http://ripepiwine.com

Narcisi 2015 DeChaunac: Slightly sweet medium-bodied wine with flavors of oranges, plum and cherries. Balanced acidity and a tart finish

Narcisi Winery 4578 Gibsonia Road  Gibsonia, Pa http://narcisiwinery.com