First is an aerial view of the vineyard looking due North which was taken in July, 2013. There are 30 total rows with the five longest rows in the center of the “diamond” that are approximately 425 feet long. The Traminette are on the East (right) side, Marquette in the center with the Chambourcin on the far West (left) side.
Sugar Creek Winery Aerial View
The winter of 2012-2013 was unremarkable from a weather standpoint. Temperatures and precipitation were slightly below average.
Since the was little to no work to be done in the vineyard, we busied ourselves with cellar activities and making wine again with grapes and juice harvested from Meigs Farm at Purdue University’s “experiment farm”.
This year we chose Noiret (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noiret) as the red and Valvin Muscat (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valvin_muscat) for the white. Inoculation for the primary fermentation was done with SC1060 for the red and D47 for the white and started on December 22, 2012. On December 29, both were racked and placed into the secondary fermentation containers. Both were racked on February and again on March 2. The Muscat had a specific gravity 0.99 on March 18th and was racked a final time. The Noiret final racking was March 24.
We decided to sweeten the Muscat. We set up 5 aliquots of 100ML each with a different concentration of a 2:1 sugar/water mix. We chose the one middle of the range as the best which resulted in a wine with approximately .32% RS. More about this wine later.
The Noiret was left dry and everything was bottled on March 24, 2013.
By now, it was time to get back into the vineyard and start pruning for the 2013 season. The spring progressed normally and we expected to see bud break first on the Marquette
then Traminette and finally the Chambourcin. As expected the Marquette began showing buds around April 21, but there was a little activity on the Chambourcin and even less on the Traminette. After a couple of weeks the Chambourcin started to show buds and we began to worry about the Traminette. By mid May, we were not seeing the buds we expected on the Traminette.
We began our investigation into what might be the Traminette problem the third week in May. We tested the soil, the grape leaves and everything else we could. There were several pieces of the puzzle that were probably contributory to the problem but we were unable to find a “smoking gun” and never did determine the exact cause of the Traminette problem. On advice from Purdue, we re-tubed all the Traminette to bring all the shoots/suckers back up from the roots.
By mid-July, >85% of the Traminette had significant growth. However, we determined that about 100 Traminette vines would need to be replaced. All the grow tubes were removed in mid August.
2013 Indy International Wine Competition
Now back to the Valvin Muscat. We decided to enter both the Muscat and Noiret into the 2013 Indy International Wine Competition, Amateur Division, held annually at Purdue.
In 2013 there were 512 wines entered in the Amateur Competition out of which 32 received Double Gold, 46 Gold, and 190 Silver. There were 213 entries made with exclusively Indiana grapes with only six trophies awarded.
Our Valvin Muscat won the “Indiana Grown Amateur Wine of the Year” trophy. (http://www.indyinternational.org/winners/trophies/year/2013/type/amateur/ ) The Noiret won a Gold Medal.
With the success of the 2013 competition, we decided to make wine from the 2013 harvest but limit it to just white. So for the 2013 harvest we went with the Vidal Blanc, at 23.7° Brix, pH of 3.49 and Total Acidity (TA) of 5.18 g/L. Primary fermentation was started on October 9, 2013 and completed on November 16. This fermentation took longer than usual due to a “stuck” which required re-inoculation.
Meanwhile, back in the vineyard, by Thanksgiving 2013, we had put everything to bed, so to speak. Little did we know what was coming…
Beginning on January 6/7, 2014, the temperature dropped to a bone chilling-18* Fwhich was the lowest temperature recorded since 1994. At that point we were concerned, but not too worried, because we had chosen the three varietals we did due their cold hardiness. Although, we were probably stressing the Chambourcin more than the others due to our northern Indiana location. On January 11, we did an assessment of the vines and were surprised to note that all seemed to have weathered the cold temps okay. However, there was more to come. Over the next several weeks, the now well known “Polar Vortex” was all over us and we had more record breaking temps that lasted for several days in a row with each episode.
As we found out when spring finally arrived, the winter had had a major impact. It was not that is was so much the cold temperatures alone but the combination of the cold temps for several days in a row followed by another and another episode that had taken its toll on the vineyards. It was reported that Indiana Vineyards lost are much as 75-percent of their grape yields in 2014 year because of the last winter’s deep freeze. (http://wbaa.org/post/harsh-winter-sapping-states-wine-grape-crops)
In neighboring Ohio, the Ohio Wine Producers Association reported in early July 2014 that all Northeastern Ohio Wineries from Avon east to the Pennsylvania line suffered deep losses to the wine grape crop. They are quoted saying, “There was a 100-percent crop loss for 2014 for all vinifera wine varieties.” (http://www.newsnet5.com/weather/weather-news/federal-govt-to-assess-local-wine-grape-losses)
It was this way for our vineyard along with virtually every vineyard from western Missouri all the way to the Finger Lakes in New York State. We all had taken a major hit and the 2014 harvest may be a complete loss.
Since we were going into our third season after planting, we were not planning on a harvest in 2014. So the fact that most of the buds had been destroyed was not as catastrophic for us. However, we did discover that approximate 130 of the Traminette and 25 of the Chambourcin had been damaged beyond recovery and would need to be replaced. These had been damage to the point that Crown Gall had been able to get in and choke off the vines nutrients. The Marquette is a hybrid out of the University of Minnesota which could and did withstand the extreme low temperatures.
Of the Traminette and Chambourcin, virtually all 600+ vines were killed down to the roots. We had to re-tube every vine and let the shoots/suckers
come up from the roots. At mid July we are hopeful that each will reach the top trellis by the end of the growing season.
That is where we are at this writing, July 15, 2014. The Marquette will actually produce a crop for harvest this year. The pictures show small clusters in early May with larger clusters in late May and the vines are growing well.
We expect to have enough grapes to make 150 to 200 gallons of wine or between 60 and 80 cases of pure Marquette wine.
The Chambourcin and Traminette have lost at least one year and perhaps even two years before we will be able to harvest them for wine making.