As we explain in the About section about our vineyard, grapes can, and are, grown all across the world in latitudes much further north and south than Lincolnville, Maine. But can they be cultivated well? Can you produce quality fruit consistently with the right balance for making great wine? Even with Maine’s unique terroir and ever-changing weather we believe the answer to those questions is yes.
Ten years ago we began replanting the vineyard with cold-hardy hybrid grapes known to perform well in our region and climate. After some trial and error, our vineyard grows Marquette, Frontenac gris, Frontenac blanc, and L’Acadie Blanc. In 2012, we were able to harvest the first fruit from our vineyard, which yielded 4.5 tons of grapes and became Vendange, a sparkling rosé, and our very first estate-grown wine. The following year, in 2013, we harvested 6.85 tons of grapes and were able to produce both a sparkling rosé and a sparkling white, a Blanc de Blancs.
Below is a vineyard update from Wyatt Philbrook, our vineyard manager.
The start of the 2018 growing season is off to a great start. A little dry but the vines are taking it well so far.
A NEW TRELLIS SYSTEM
Earlier this spring we adapted our trellising system to a new style designed to improve our trellis anchors and the way we run our wires which work together to control how our vines grow. The first time we used the new design, we could instantly see the difference; we literally slashed our trellis labor hours in half the time. This is a big deal when you’re looking at 40 miles of wire to adjust and tension with 150 anchors. Two-thirds of the vineyard has been re-trellised and by this time next year the rest of the vineyard will be completed.
BUD & SHOOT THINNING
The new trellis system has freed up time to keep up with the vines once bud break began as this year’s shoots start to emerge. By keeping up, we mean bud/shoot thinning, the process in which we remove all unwanted new growth as it emerges to leave behind only the best shoots for this year’s crop of grapes. A rough estimate is that we have removed about 45,000-55,000 buds or shoots by hand or about 12-14 per vine. It adds up quick!
We will be planting about 100 more vines by mid-June. The new trellis anchor posts allowed us to extend some rows and so we’ve got some extra space to fill. Our winemakers Aaron and CC are happy to know that we are adding almost another full row of L’Acadie blanc, an early to mid-ripening grape that has to the potential to be very productive and high yielding.
Shoot tucking is next. As the new shoots start reaching out for sunlight we will be training them up into the wires and directing them so as to evenly space the canopy as much as possible. Sometimes they have a mind of their own though.
In the coming weeks, we will begin leaf thinning. An experiment we started three years ago to test the different varietals in terms of sun tolerance and grape exposure has shown us that we can begin leaf thinning much earlier than is commonly believed. This will be a key factor for us because our ripening season is so short and we have to get those grapes up to the right brix and acid levels as soon as we can.
TEN YEARS IN THE MAKING
It’s been a long path to get us to where the vineyard is now, with still further to go, but we’ve definitely rounded the corner. It’s been an awesome team effort all the way.