& Tips - Winter 2005
After a long cherry crushing day, Megan, Kate and Skipper enjoy
Lucy and Albert's vaudeville practice.
Isabella says, "Waiter, a fresh vino
Flowers & Grapes photo: Anthony Cesare
We are pleased to have been chosen to provide the proprietary
wine for Montana Governor-Elect Brian Schweitzer's inaugural
reception in February, 2005. It's a promising new day for
Montana and we love being part of it.
This summer’s rain—3 inches above normal--has
kept the forests from burning and nourished our grapes and
tomatoes. The vines set fruit in spite of a cold May
and high moisture June but a late frost nip was hard on the
Foch shoots. They were first to bud out and the 28
degree frost damaged 40 percent of the vines. Nevertheless,
the secondary fruits set well.
The vines grew so fast that an active program of shoot selection
and canopy management became the top priority to maximize
direct sunlight. The vines are incredibly lush and
bushy despite two prunings. About the time Martha Stewart
went to trial we started training grapes planted last year
This is the first year we’ve had enough compost—provided
by Ted and Peggy in Evaro in the form of bedding pen straw
from their championship sheep herd--to enrich our soil. We
also planted buckwheat and alfalfa between rows to maintain
a permanent cover crop in the aisles to feed nitrogen to
the vines’ roots. Alfalfa fixes nitrogen from the air.
Buckwheat draws up phosphorus deep in the soil and makes
it available to the vines’ roots—important in
our rocky ground. We will till it in to concentrate
phosphorous and organic matter to foster a diverse microbial
community. This is essential in our unusual vineyard
setting: a mountain valley with glacial outrun soil
so rocky we installed an all-steel trellis system. Here,
crown gall, an ever-present soil bacteria, has been a problem
in our Leon Millot and to a lesser degree in our Foch vines.
St. Pepin and Frontenac are so far immune and robust. Green
manure crops and compost create a more balanced soil structure,
increasing friability and humus, and should keep the crown
gall in check.
Veraison, the start of color change in the grapes, began
We harvested our grapes during the second
week of October. More than 60 people--neighbors, friends
and University of Montana students from the Program of Ecology,
Agriculture and Society--picked and crushed grapes. Plenty
of food and drink kept everyone unaware of how hard they
worked. They picked 4.5 tons in two days. One young fellow
sitting against the fence was overheard talking on his cell
phone, "I'm in the middle of a vineyard in the sun,
it's 65 degrees I have a great view of the mountains. Why
would I want to be anywhere else?"
Andy conducts the unloading of two new 2,200 gallon stainless steel
wine tanks delivered from Spokane in August, 2004
Vineyard in Winter, photo: Beth Ferris
Flathead Lake’s Cherry Crop
It was a stunning season for the cherry crop at
the organic Finley Point orchard now owned by Elise Rousseau
and Al Silva. Valiant Al delivered a total of 10,000
pounds of cherries daily in the heat of Boston’s Democratic
Convention in late July. While unloading cherry bins
in the evening sun, we reported the highlights to Al. We
crushed, fermented and pressed juicy Lambert cherries into
tanks while Albert, our new rascally puppy, ate so many pits
we thought a family of bears had been through, leaving their
Connie’s Organic Tomato Chips
In a green meadow, Jane Kile planted our tomato seedlings
at her impeccable organic farm in Dixon, Montana. Rich
soil and plenty of sunlight, plus Jane’s guiding hand,
brought forth a bountiful, tasty harvest.
On a quiet, overcast and chilly Sunday in August Connie
took the dogs for a walk, a total of five—two extra
here for summer dog camp. Along a muddy stretch of
Rattlesnake Creek our neighbor’s golden retriever and
our daily companion, Chula, saw Shiloh, an old yellow lab
visiting for the weekend, fall into the water from the slippery
trail’s cutbank. Chula pounced and held Shiloh
under water—she couldn’t pass up an opportunity
to drown the newest guest. Connie jumped in after her
and immediately slid in the mud up to her neck. She
did get Shiloh’s head above water and all survived,
wet as mops, in less than buoyant moods.
They drove home and emerged from the van dripping mud and
water to find a young woman from California waiting at the
winery for a tour and tasting. It was a droll moment
and the beginning of a new adventure. Maile Field grew
up in the Rattlesnake Valley, just up the road from the winery. She
and her husband Lars now own an organic vineyard and pear
orchard in Kelseyville, Lake County, Calif. The upshot of
that drenched and dirty meeting is that we are now making
Sauvignon Blanc from Maile and Lars' luscious organic grapes.
Andy and pal Bryan DiSalvatore drove two 24'-long Budget
Rent-A-Trucks to Kelseyville--getting stopped along the way
as suspected terrorists in the Nevada desert. They crushed
grapes, played marbles with the kids, revelled in Maile and
Lars' gracious hospitality, and enjoyed an older, rural California
bypassed by the asphalt tsunami paving so much of that world.
This venture makes a satisfying Rattlesnake loop for both
families. Sometimes you can go home again.
Driving home over mountain passes loaded with 2,700 gallons of juice starting
to ferment had its white-knuckle moments. That, and a Friday night hoedown in
the Ritzville bar brought the new wine's name to Andy with the pale fire of
dawn: Blind Curve. Expect it in the spring.
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