viticulture

Tales from the Shale - Vineyard Journal May 11, 2018

May 11, 2018 -- BIO-SPRAY / VINEYARD SAUCE
Written by Autumn Stoscheck (Instagram: @myvineyardyear)

First bio spray of the year at Forge Cellars. I call it Vineyard Sauce because it smells like Thai fish sauce. While the winemaker's fermentations are done in beautiful French oak barrique, the vigneron's fermentation is taking place in recycled plastic barrel. After 4 weeks in the cellar, my brew of Effective Microbes is ready to spray on the vines. These microbes have been selected for their ability to contribute to plant and soil health. Sort of like a probiotic for the vineyard. Also in the mix, organic fermented fish from a family farm in North Carolina. This contains essential fatty acids which the microbes need, as well as nutrients for the vines. Farms rarely post pictures of spraying on their social media...consumers might be shocked at the behind the scenes look at chemical agriculture. But I am posting this picture because my bio spray is a joyful occasion. As a mom, I love cooking healthy food for my children with high quality ingredients. As a farmer, I feel like I am doing the same thing for my plant children. As a caretaker of this vineyard, I get to be there when the sun rises over the Hector backbone on this glorious day in early May!

Tales from the Shale - Vineyard Journal Apr. 26, 2018

April 26, 2018 -- TYING THE VINES
Written by Autumn Stoscheck (Instagram: @myvineyardyear)

My first day tying vines at Forge Cellars (and ever for that matter). The Hector wind has died down, the sun is out, the birds are singing and the lake is shimmering in the distance. This little French tying tool is really slick. It's kinda like hog tie pliers, but with a biodegradable twist tie material.

This time of year is so exciting. Even though it's still cold and from the outside the vines look like they are still sleeping, I know that so much is happening in the plant realms that I can't see. The roots of the vines are growing, getting their networks in place for photosynthesis and working in concert with their mycorrhizal allies. And do you know that intoxicating smell after an early spring rain? I like to think it's the smell of the soil microbiome kicking in to high gear.

May 4, 2018
There are a lot of parallels between orcharding and vineyarding...today was the day that this long, slow start to spring really seemed to be over. The sun came out and got hot between warm rains, the tree frogs and the peepers reached a defining pitch and you could almost watch the buds swelling in real time. All day I was getting texts from both my orchard and vineyard people. "Did you finish pruning?" "Did you get that spray on?" "Did you finish tying?" "Is your tractor fixed?" "Did the brush get pulled?" For a lot of folks, this time of year is just enjoyable but for my friends who farm woody perennials it's a different feeling: suddenly the season is off to an unstoppable start. Roots multiplying, sap flowing, leaves ready to begin unfurling at a dizzying pace. Somewhere between panic and euphoria, we kick into a higher gear and now it's a race to the finish line. Today at the Forge home vineyard, my intern and I tied 2,600 vines: a race against time as the buds are now popping, incredibly fragile and ready to begin opening. Luckily we will finish tomorrow, not a moment too soon...

Tales from the Shale - Vineyard Journal Apr. 23, 2018

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Have you met Autumn Stoscheck?  She's the powerhouse behind Eve's Cidery, farmer extraordinaire, orchardist turned vigneron, and generally just a badass lady.  Autumn is on sabbatical with the cidery and working with us to develop our biointensive home farm.  Her methodologies and holistic approach to the land echo the philosophies of Forge and Saint Cosme, while also bringing a unique perspective to the mix.

Throughout the season we will share some highlights from the vineyard, and bring you along to explore the terroir of our site.


April 23, 2018 -- MAKING BIOCHAR
Written by Autumn Stoscheck (Instagram: @myvineyardyear)

#1 Vine prunings from 3 acres of 3 year old vines, the pit, and my fire starter. I dug this pit in 2 hours with a front loader on a little Kubota and hand held hoe. It's cone shaped, 3' deep in the center with a 6' radius up top.

#2 Started a very hot fire with scrap wood from old pallets.

#3 When it was raging, I began adding the prunings. The trick is to continue to add as much fire as possible with out smothering it.

#4 Fire burns twice, first making charcoal, then ash. The cone prevents air from reaching the bottom of the fire, leaving behind the charcoal. The fire is so hot it makes no smoke, only steam. The pit was full when I threw the last of the vines on the fire.

#5 Luckily our sprayer only uses organic certified materials, so I had a convenient method to pump the 100 gallons of water that the fire required to quench.

#6 Apx 200 gallons of high quality, uniform biochar ready to inoculate and add to our compost pile to be returned to the vineyard.

Why do we make Pinot Noir?

(Sourced from our e-newsletter on Jan. 18, 2018)

2011, our first vintage of Pinot Noir. (Photo: Wendy Houseworth)

2011, our first vintage of Pinot Noir. (Photo: Wendy Houseworth)

Just about every week we have someone visit the winery for a tasting, and often one of their first questions is, "Why do you make Pinot Noir?” 

True, with with our variable weather patterns and cool, northerly climate, nothing is easy here; certainly not the fickle, seductive beauty known as Pinot.  But we have always had the confidence that if we chose the right sites, balanced the yields, worked with dedicated growers, and paid attention throughout the season, we could absolutely achieve excellence. Notice I have mentioned nothing about the winemaking, which must be watchful, disciplined and intensive. This past fall, Justin and I used our brain power and brute strength to figure out how to break through the foot-thick cap of grape skins to punch down our Pinots. Louis haranged us day and night about fermentation temperatures, and we bit our nails in suspense over whether our French barrels would arrive from Santa Rosa, California while it was burning from wildfires.  

Seneca Lake Pinot Noir truly excites us and gets us up in the mornings. We believe it is possible to translate our terroir into a sublime glass of Pinot. Some of the very factors that deter and stymy are those that have the potential to make our version so compelling. We continue our quest for finesse, delicacy, seduction and charm, and we invite you to come along on this journey. Such is our confidence in the variety here, that  in 2016 and 2017, we planted ten acres of Pinot on our home farm. With the help of our Vineyard Consultant, Phil Davis (Damiani Wine Cellars) and our vineyard team, which now includes Autumn Stoscheck from Eve’s Cidery, we look forward to raising our young vines in the most eco-friendly and balanced manner possible that they might tell you a brilliant Finger Lakes story one day.

If you like Burgundy, we think you will especially find our Pinots attractive. These are wines that reflect their delicate and gradual Finger Lakes ripening and their foundation in shale soils. They are alive, expressive and mysterious, unfolding at will. I'll be heading to Burgundy for inspiration and wisdom from the holy grail of Pinot Noir in just a week, so stay tuned for updates, and in the meantime, check out our newly released and rated Les Alliés 2015.

-RR

Opposites

This year we are experiencing the wettest summer that I can recall.  I have never had a wet basement in our 200-year-old farmhouse during the summer months.  Just this past week, I had four inches of water down there--thankfully, it is a slate and dirt floor, so the water comes in and goes out without too much of an issue.  

The fun of having a “sister estate” is that we get to compare notes.  Louis sent me a picture this morning from Château de Saint Cosme in Gigondas (Rhône Valley), which was taken with a drone above the Roman chapel (the inspiration for the Saint Cosme label) that is at the top of the vineyards behind the winery.  He told me that they are having a hot and dry summer, but the vines seem to be doing okay.  The vines have to develop very deep roots in order to survive these hot months in the Rhône.  This is quite the opposite of Seneca Lake this summer, where we are handing out snorkels to the vineyard crews.

-RR

Putting the Ducks to Work

We are big advocates of biodiversity on our growing farm, and value the symbiotic relationship we have with our land. This weekend, our ducklings were moved from their temporary home in the winery to their new coop in the vineyard. Over the next few weeks they will learn the landscape and begin helping us with pest management. (Bonus: not only are these guys hard workers, but they are pretty darn cute, too!)


If you're interested in learning more, check out this video from a winery in South Africa that employs more than 800 ducks in their vineyard -- it's truly a sight to see.

Adding Drain Tile to Our Home Farm

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In the coming weeks, our home farm will welcome another addition of Riesling and Pinot Noir vines. This past weekend, Rick and James spent their time installing drain tiles throughout the vineyard where the next phase of planting will occur.  By "tiling" or adding drain tiles, any excess subsurface water from the rising of the water table will be redirected through the pipe/drain system and moved away from the vineyard.  It's a necessary undertaking in a region such as the Finger Lakes, which experiences somewhat significant rainfall in various years. 

During the dig, we unearthed quite a bit of shale and blue clay - a combination that will make Pinot Noir especially happy.  

-KR

Checking in on Our Friends in Gigondas

clairette vines saint cosme

In the spring, we had the chance to plant Clairette vines in Gigondas at Château de Saint Cosme. We received a photo just the other day showing us how they are coming along.

Vines grow much slower at Saint Cosme! The Forge Cellars vines, planted (on Seneca Lake) in June are already nearly 36 inches tall. Amazing, the difference in vigor.

Below is the recap on planting in Gigondas that we sent out via email back in June.


Our Recent Trip to France
June 16, 2016

Each year the Forge Cellars team heads to Gigondas for at least a week for tasting, education and discussions with Louis and the Château de Saint Cosme team.  This year was magical as we hand planted a small vineyard at the estate of selection massale Clairette as a small experiment on the edge of the Hominis Fidis vineyard.

Small parcels must be hand planted.  This process uses your body weight to drive the spike into the ground. Elbow grease is required and then with a deft hand, you slip the vine into the hole as you remove the spike.  Training is required!

This technique requires the skill of a surgeon.  Though Laurent (red shirt) doesn’t speak much English, his guidance in French was enough to allow Phil Davis (vineyard liaison) to try his hand at this ancient technique.