As the leaves fall with the temps I slowly migrate indoors from the vineyard and put my fingers to the keyboard. This is where I start to take what I have learned from the previous vintages, absorb hours of research and make adjustments to the upcoming year’s plan. This is also where I have the pleasure of recapping the year’s vintage and sharing with the community the highlights and challenges endured. Some years the ratio of highlights and challenges lean heavily towards the challenging side such as 2020 when the derecho hit our estate damaging our crop just as the many homes and businesses did in our community. Finding highlights to share that year was much harder to share. This year was quite the opposite.
Pruning, which is arguably the most important step in keeping a healthy vineyard, started in mid February. The vines needed a little upkeep with some training/shaping. Training and pruning is vital for a multitude reasons such as fruit balance, fungal protection, nutrient uptake and harvest efficiency to name a few. You can expect to see three different shapes in our vineyard depending on grape cultivar.
The temps throughout the season were quite mild. Late winter and early spring hovered around the higher 30’s and lower 40’s. Comfortable enough to work outside but cool enough to prevent the vines from waking up prematurely. We did have a 3 day event where the temps dropped into the upper 20’s during the early days of bud break but we noticed little to no damage to our vine buds. The same can not be said to many of the vineyards in the upper Midwest during that time where they lost the majority of their crop before the season even started. The summer was quite dry and continued the same comfortable temperature zone for vine growth and fruit development. Fungus issues and Japanese beetles were almost nonexistent. We typically do not irrigate our vines but we did feel it was necessary to water our young vines recycling the cooling water from our distillery. Late summer and early fall continued the same warm and dry days resulting in excellent fruit ripening during veraison. With the lack of rain, our grapes did not have a large amount of juice volume but the concentration of flavors and balance were out of this world.
Harvest was about as perfect as it can get. No major weather event prevented us from picking our crop at premium timeframes. Yields were the highest since 2016 with harvesting just over 32,000 lbs. of grapes. In years past we had to supplement our volume by purchasing grapes from local Iowa vineyards but this year we had enough supply from our own estate. I can only imagine what our volume could have been if we had a rain event or two just prior to harvest. The most important element within each harvest season is how amazing our community is by the many volunteers who take the time out of their lives to help pick the grapes. Without them it would be incredibly challenging if not impossible to harvest the fruit without affecting quality in the end wine. Closing the chapter of each growing season in hand with the community is understatedly priceless.
The vines are now entering their dormancy period as they prepare for the winter’s slumber. Even though the green is gone, there is beauty in the vineyard during all seasons. I hope the community takes advantage of our estate’s character during the changing seasons by going for a walk around the property. Overlooking the pond on the West side of the property is my favorite. As a near future project, I plan to get a trail manicured around the property paired with a map to enhance our guests’ experience and show off this breathtaking piece of the world. Hope to see everyone again soon.
– Kent Foulker, Vineyard Manager