Monday, September 6, 2010

Excellent article on Maine wine and grape growing

In the past, we've seen some pretty bad articles about growing grapes in Maine. From misconstrued information to misinformed journalists, grape growers in Maine have had to work hard to convince the public that it's possible to make good Maine wine from Maine grown grapes. We're beginning to see, quite literally, the fruits of our labor, and even journalists are starting to get the story straight.

We want to highlight this particularly well written and well researched article, titled Bottling Maine that appeared in the Portland Monthly. Below, is an excerpt from the article with a list of all the Maine wineries.

A Guide To Maine Wineries

Bar Harbor Cellars at Sweet Pea Farm
Bar Harbor

A beautiful hilltop winery in a Civil War-era home. Must try: Riesling, Dry Blueberry
Bartlett’s Maine Estate Winery
Gouldsboro

Maine’s oldest winery, est. 1982, and designed by winemaker Bob Bartlett, a former architect. Must try: Reserve Dry Oak Wild Blueberry, Blueberry Sangiovese, Trio
Blacksmith’s Winery
South Casco

Winery is a converted farmhouse and barn where a village blacksmith once lived and worked. Must try: Sparkling Cranberry, Trillium
Breakwater Vineyards & Farm
Owl’s Head

Winery is housed in a barn overlooking the Rockland breakwater and its lighthouse, and is the only Maine winery currently growing vinifera grapes. Must try: Oaky Chardonnay
Cellardoor Vineyard
Lincolnville

Maine’s largest winery has two tasting rooms: a post-and-beam barn at the Lincolnville vineyard and a Victorian house (The Villa) in Rockland. Must try: Viognier, Serendipity
DayBreak Manor Vineyard
Wiscasset
This beautifully landscaped manor has a rentable cottage and small boutique store. Releasing their first wines this summer. Tasting room is in the works.

Dragonfly Farm & Winery
Stetson

Enthusiastic, young hobbiest-vintners make wine on a lovely new farm near Bangor. Must try: Clarity
Fiddlers’ Reach
Bath

Makes five meads from Maine and Georgia honey. A fine one-man show from owner/winemaker Rob Nicoll. No tasting room. Must try: Merrymeeting Dry Mead
Maine Coast Vineyards
Portland

Offers a variety of wines from locally grown grapes. No tasting room. Must try: The Scarborough Beach Series
Maine Mead Works
Portland

Maine wildflower honey is used to make dry and semi-dry meads, blueberry mead, and seasonal varieties. Must try: Blueberry Mead
Oyster River Winegrowers
Warren

Owner specializes in wines made from his own organically grown grapes. Must try: Villager White
Prospect Hill Winery
Lebanon

This friendly farm winery has hilltop views, nice gardens, animals, and trails for kids to enjoy. Must try: Edelvira, Chancellor
Salmon Falls Winery
South Berwick

Winemaker, an environmental engineer and wine connoisseur, makes a variety of red wines. No tasting room. Must try: Milestone Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon
Savage Oakes Vineyard & Winery
Union

A family-friendly winery on a farm owned by the same family since the 1790s. Must try: Seyval Blanc, Barn Red
Shalom Orchard Organic Farm & Winery
Franklin

Jim Baranski, who built his own rustic winery, has a scientific background and loves to experiment with historic blends and oddball varieties (including creations such as Kiwi and Wintergreen wine).  Must try: Cranberry Cyser
Sow’s Ear Winery
Brooksville

Maine’s second-oldest winery, opened in 1991. Tom Hoey, a self-sufficient homesteader, makes wines from his own, hand-picked fruit and other local fruit. Must try: Rhubarb Wine
Sweetgrass Farm Winery & Distillery
Union

Makes a variety of wines, rums, brandies, and more on an attractive family farm in the pastoral hills of central Maine. Must try: Apple Wine, Cranberry or Blueberry Smash
Tanguay & Son Winery
Lewiston

A school maintenance supervisor and his son, a computer-program analyst, make wine in their own little laboratory in Lewiston. No tasting room. Must try: Maine Blueberry
Unity Winery & Vineyards
Unity

Offers unusual wines with names like Tickled Pink and Petal Pushers. Tasting room is in the works. Must try: Four Sisters Elderberry Wine
Winterport Winery
Winterport

Makes a large variety of fruit wines and holds tastings in a renovated hardware store. Pairings, a center for food and wine education, is located here. Must try: Apple Wine, Cranberry Wine, Flying Dutchman

Friday, August 27, 2010

Last day to visit Maine Wine Pavilion at the Union Fair

If you're a Maine wine enthusiast and in the area today, take the time to head out to the Union Fair and visit the Maine Wine Pavilion in it's first year. It will be open from 2PM to 6PM today featuring free wine tastings and other giveaways.  Sponsored by Savage Oakes Vineyard and Winery and the Maine Winery Guild, the Maine Wine Pavilion is located in the recently renovated Loanna Shibles 4-H Building on the Union Fairgrounds. The Pavilion project is a labor of love by Savage Oakes Winery owner Elmer Savage and his wife, Holly, who spent the last year gutting and renovating it with the help and support of their fellow Maine Winery
To find out more about the Union Fair Maine Wine Pavilion, contact Elmer Savage at (207) 785-2828. Learn more about the Maine Wine Trail or Maine Winery Guild by visiting the organization’s website http://www.mainewinetrail.com/.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Best training systems for Maine vineyards

Grape vines grow in the wild, clinging to other vegetation to support themselves and grow up high enough to expose themselves to the sun. Vineyards, on the other hand, are a man-made creation, the result of much strategy and planning to fine the best way to train, prune, and manage these wild, and sometimes unruly vines so they produce high yields and high quality vines. It is truly an art. Here's what the Midwest Grape Production Guide from Ohio State University Extension has to say:

“Pruning and training are perhaps the most important cultural management practices for grapes. A thorough understanding of the concepts of pruning severity and crop load is critical to sustained production of high-quality fruit.” 

There is no training system that works perfectly for all climates and settings, and it is often true that a variety of methods will get the job done. Still, here in Maine, there are definitely some unique factors to consider and some methods that are clearly better than others.
Vertical Shoot Positioning Training (image from rieslingrules.com)
So far, what we've found makes the most sense for Maine, is the Vertical Shoot Position training system, often referred to as VSP. This is a probably the most commonly used training system for cool climate grapes. The objective of VSP is to create a narrow layer by training shoots vertically so that there will be good sunlight and airflow in the fruiting zone of the canopy. There are a number of variations of this system, but the overall benefit is that it allows air to pass freely through the canopy. The fruit can then dry out quickly after rain and the grapes are exposed to more direct sunlight. No vegetative growth is allowed below the lowest wire.
We then run 3 sets of double strands of wire, also known as catch wires. Catch wires hold the vines and allowed them to be tucked, rather than tied, into position. 

For an excellent overview of various training systems see this presentation below:

Friday, July 16, 2010

Good News for Maine Grape Growers Fighting Japanese Beetles

Ever since 1916, when Japanese beetles were first discovered in a New Jersey nursery, they've been wreaking havoc for gardeners and farmers in just about every state east of the Mississippi.  This invasive species can be difficult and expensive to control, because unlike their native Japan, there are few predators and environmental factors to keep the population in check here.

Whether you're growing table or wine grapes, vineyard owners everywhere are always trying to stay one step ahead of these hungry pests, and scientists have been working hard to find a solution. One of the most important breakthroughs came earlier this year when scientists at the University of Kentucky found that Geraniums may have an intoxicating, if not toxic effect on Japanese beetles. According to UK entomologists Daniel Potter and David Held,


"... when Japanese beetles fed upon the petals of geranium, generally in less than an hour the bugs enter a kind of narcotic state," says Potter. "They curl up on their back and pull their legs close to their underside. They'll twitch if you disturb them, but they're clearly in dreamland."

In the lab, the beetles remained in the drunken state for about 12 hours before waking up again and returning to feast on geranium petals. However, it is believed that outside of the laboratory, many of these beetles would fall victim to predators and dehydration during drunken stupor. Scientists are now working to figure out what exactly it is in the geranium that has this powerful effect on the Japanese beetles in order to hopefully extract it in concentrated forms for use in some sort of organic pesticide.

For now, we're not racing to plant geraniums all over the vineyard. After all, it's quite possible that the plants could attract more beetles than they incapacitate, but scientists are hopeful that by the beginning of the next growing season, a geranium inspired pesticide shoud be available to consumers.

For more, visit http://www.research.uky.edu/odyssey/spring00/beetles.html

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Home vineyard in Camden, Maine... 75 grape vines

Our vineyard
We've just planted about 75 Frontenac Gris grape vines in our lawn in Camden, Maine. Here they are about 3 weeks after being planted and they're doing great.