Barreca Vineyards

Barreca Vineyards

From Vine to Wine since 1986

Fall 2018

As you could expect, this is a very busy time of year at the vineyard.  So to shorten the blog to a minimum I will just put a link here for an article I wrote in the North Columbia Monthly for October – and have recreated here on this website.  It is called Dirt First and gives the basics of Regenerative Agriculture.  Then I will put in some pictures with captions.

Dried Fruit for the winter

Tomatoes coming on

Filberts from out trees

Hot Lips are still in bloom

Paste Tomatoes

Crab Apples

The Red Oak picture by Cheryl

Marechal Foch Grapes

The Rav4 broke a timing belt on the way to the Farmers Market

Siegerrebe Grapes in the crusher

Cheryl sold her 4 wheel drive Toyota to my daughter April. Maybe James will be able to drive it in 2030.

Lucie Kuhlmann primary fermentation

Friends picking a future French Rocks Red wine

Big Cat Face spider 

Siegerrebe Grapes at Downriver Orchard

Our VW Vanagon cracked ahead – out for the season

Kit and Sharon Shultz crushing grapes with Tom Distler

Amber and Tom helping out

A big Black Lab Cheryl rescued from the highway and found the owners for

Himrod Grapes

3 cords of wood delivered

Silent Fall

Gray-C liked the bird nets

When a pendulum swings it pauses at either end and quickly passes through the middle. August is the middle. Things are changing quickly. We have gone from some of the hottest summer days on record to days of giant swings between the high and low temperatures. That part of our weather is actually good for grapes and wine. Not so good were a few days of suffocating smoke that might affect the wine.

Record High Temperatures

Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring was published in 1962 warning of mankind’s impact on the natural world. 66 years later this last month has me wondering once again if we have not permanently impacted wildlife. After spending parts of many days putting up bird nets over the grapes, virtually no birds showed up, just a flock of robins apparently looking for bugs in the new mulch. I’m hoping that it is only a temporary aberration because of smoke but smoke has become the norm in the past few years. I also worry about wasps and yellow jackets this time of year. They were going strong all summer but now seem to have faded away.

At least the crickets are persistent, maybe too persistent. They set up a steady drone in the evening with a pulse of solo artists nearby. We have a frog somewhere behind the refrigerator that pipes up around dinner time. The crops are doing well, I dried a couple gallons of

Some critters persisted

cherries and apricots. Cheryl froze, strawberries, raspberries, peaches and blueberries. We picked a good supply of huckleberries.

With the fruit there is also fresh corn and the combination makes for our favorite breakfast: corn fritters and fruit. The recipe is simple. One ear of corn kernels, one egg and several teaspoons of flour. Mix them all together and fry. Flip after a minute or so and in another minute you should have a fritter nicely browned on each side, ready for butter, maple syrup and fresh fruit. Multiply the ingredients to suit your appetite. Serve with a white desert wine. (Just kidding about the wine).

 

But speaking of white wine, August was a great month for filling out our white wine selections. The Muscat has a surprising hint of citrus and was great with Copper River salmon last week. For the first time ever we have some extra Gewürztraminer to sell with it’s unique fresh flavor. Siegerrebe, a crisp semi-sweet white wine, has been popular all summer. A new addition is elderberry wine which many people have heard of and some rave about. We are almost out of the limited release of Riesling for 2016, a wine I am very proud of, refreshing but not too sweet or tart. And finally, Caramel(ized) Apple Wine that seems perfect for Fall.

Boyds fire in the background

The beginning of August brought us drought and record-breaking heat with at least a couple of days reaching 104. We could work outside in the morning or evening, but inside our underground house or straw bale office were the best places to beat the heat. Heat became the least of our problems on August 11th, when a fire broke out across the lake from us and 10 miles to the north, said to be caused by a tree blowing over in 40 mph winds and hitting a power line. The “Boyds Fire” was really mostly near Barney’s Junction, Noisy Waters and Nancy Creek, not Boyds.  But apparently we cartographers are the only ones fussy about names. Over the next couple of weeks it grew to nearly 5000 acres.

Boyds Fire First Night (Links to Video)

The morning of the 12th we drove to the newly opened hardware store in Kettle Falls and bought a box of N95 breathing masks. Then we drove out to St Paul’s Mission to look at the fire burning on the other side of the lake. Several homes burned, some owned by people we know. Many others lost power and had to evacuate, including our mailman. Ultimately it became a project fire with 400 firefighters. The whole town of Kettle Falls seemed to be a fire camp. We put icons for air quality on our phones and watched as it crept past unhealthy to very unhealthy and hazardous. We wore breathing masks for the limited time we spent outdoors and still keep sprinklers on around our buildings. When you can barely see across the street because of the smoke, you are always worried that there may be a new fire nearby that you just can’t see. Finally, two weeks later on August 26th it rained enough to wet the ground and clear the air.

Great Sunsets in the Smoke

The sun was a red ball in a gray sky at sunrise and sunset. Even the moon was red and the stars mostly disappeared. Now we are thankful for the crisp air and the blue sky. Signs reading “Firefighters Rule” have sprouted up everywhere, (along with all the political signs of course). Despite articles circulating about “smoke taint”, we have started to harvest grapes, and they taste great. The “tyranny of the harvest” has begun and we are glad to work outside again.

One Thing Leads to Another

Huckleberries are Ripe

This will be the hottest day of the year, 104 degrees. I’m glad to be in our straw bale winery at 74 degrees F. It is also the height of fruit season. There are cherries in the dryer; apricots in the refrigerator; huckleberries, blueberries and peaches in the freezer. Breakfast was fresh corn fritters with most of those fruits on top. Grapes, plums and apples are all on their way or just starting. But bringing the crop in is far from a done deal.

Grapes Turning Color

The new irrigation is almost completely installed but ironically we are now starting to taper off on water. The grapes are turning to their natural color. Veraison is the technical name of this stage of their development. The not so technical name is “get the bird nets up” season. So the push is on to have the grapes covered while migrating birds start to pass by so they don’t decide to stay awhile.

Smoke over Eastern Washington

It has also been a busy month for migrating visitors. Too bad they are not here to help with the nets. But who can blame them. The whole of Eastern Washington is covered in forest fire smoke. We did get a fast ride on a Zodiac from a visiting friend of a friend. It’s a good time to live near a lake.

On July 27th I bottled

Okanagan Riesling

Riesling from 2016. It is very much a vintage to be proud of. We have enough of it to sell right now but it is going fast.

Two days later I gave a talk on Regenerative Agriculture and a Permaculture gathering nearby. It was well-received and I took the occasion to introduce some observations about how adding compost between the rows in the vineyard is affecting the grapes. The basic idea of Regenerative Agriculture is that healthy living soil is more fertile than any soil that depends on additions of fertilizer be it chemical or even organic. I’m seeing a “multiplier effect” in the rows that have been enhanced for the longest time. First the compost acts as a mulch. So they retain more water and it is enriched with nutrients from the compost. This spurs more plant growth in both the ground cover and the grapes.

Growth Comparison

As a sample I can compare a plantian leaf from outside the vineyard that gets water but no compost with one from a composted row. The first is 3 inches long. The second is 10 inches. If you estimate 3 times the length and 3 times the breadth, there is over 9 times the size in the compost grown plant. This will multply the amount of organic matter sitting on that row, which will in turn help grow larger plants all around. Additionally there is added bug life and bird life. The vineyard is now a habitat. I expected these effects to take years to mature and am sure that they will. But the immediate effects are much greater than I anticipated.

Tasting at Republic Brewing

Later on the 29th after giving a talk in the morning and exploring for huckleberries in the afternoon, I talked about our wines at an official wine tasting at the Republic Brewing Company. That was fun, gave me a better idea of what wines are favorites and resulted in more orders. The top three picks were Lucie Kuhlmann, Baco Noir and Siegerrebe. The Lucie Kuhlmann is a sweet, strong wine that stands well on its own. The Baco is drier and pairs well with hearty dishes. Siegerrebe is a crisp white wine that when chilled makes a refreshing addition to light meals in this hot weather.

Come to think of it. That sounds like a great idea right now. I’ll start making a fresh vegetable and pasta dinner while doing some “quality control” on a cool glass of white wine.

The To-Do List

New Plants under the Elm Tree

Usually I review diary entries from the last month to write this blog. I did that for June and it looked pretty boring. I also usually have a theme and had been thinking about “recycling” as the theme. That sounded like it could easily end up as another pedantic rant on sustainability from an old hippy. But I think people should know what it takes to run this small winery so this month I am going to recycle my to-do list from July 5th. I’m shooting for the best combination of pedantic and boring.

1: Water the Pots – I have over 400 grape starts in black plastic pots under the big elm tree. They don’t get sunburned or dry out too quickly there but still need water and it has been really dry for awhile. I should be transplanting some into bigger pots but did that on at least 10 days in June. So they are on maintenance mode until I get caught up on stuff that is in crisis mode. (The pots are all recycled.)

Young Siegerrebe

2: Fix the irrigation to the new Siegerrebe Plants – This is a minor crisis. New plants need a lot of water and I have a new line of spinning sprinklers hooked up for the Siegerrebe, (a mellow crisp white wine that I just had with an artichoke dinner). The old hose going to the new line broke and I had to fix that and get them watered.

3: Mow and water the main grape block – I had already thinned these vines but the new canes were reaching the ground and grass under them was slowing the air flow, which leads to more disease issues and an even later harvest. Cutting the ends of the canes forces them to sprout new leaves higher up and mowing lets the wind dry the

Under the old vines (those to the left were cut back and are resprouting)

inside of the vine but still allows a traveling sprinkler to keep the ground moist.

4: Finish thinning Row 19 – The first three items were just preludes to this one which takes much longer. Thinning removes small canes, weak inner leaves, low sucker canes and any cover crops like purple vetch or tall grass that are growing into the vine. Air flow and disease control are objectives but eliminating small late grape clusters that would reduce grape quality and extend our already short growing season is a goal. If sprays are needed (so far they are not) then this also opens up the vine for organic spray. Thinning all the plants at least once each season is a yearly goal and this year it clears the way for new irrigation (which is in later to-do items). As of this writing I still have 6 rows and well over 100 more vines to thin.

Both of these aisles have compost. The one on the left is growing through it.

5: Apply compost to aisle 16/17 – Physically this is the hardest To-Do item. I have written previously about my soil yard and regenerative agriculture. This is where the “rubber meets the road” or in this case the soil amendments are laid down between the rows. It means loading our biggest cart full of composting leaves from the City of Colville, rotting cow manure and straw from a neighbor, shredded grape prunnings and biochar that are run through a shredder while loading the cart. All of this material is recycled into the ground. I dump the cart between the rows and spread out the compost with a rake. It takes about 12 cart loads to fill an aisle and over 2 or three days to complete the aisle. We have enough material for 6 to 8 aisles and expect the process to continue over several years while building the soil.

6: Remove old drip system pipes from rows 18 and 19 -(I got up to this point on the 5th before lunch but was pretty sweaty and needed a shower too so it was after lunch.) Years ago I discovered that the grapes are much happier if you water the whole vineyard, not just drip water at the base of the vines. So I have been watering with traveling sprinklers including the family’s 40 year old “Nelson’s Rain Train”. They don’t travel well through a thick layer of compost, manure etc. So spreading compost means installing spinning sprinklers beneath a main line suspended about 18 inches above the ground under the

The “bone yard” where the old drip system is being dismantled.

grape canopy. And that means removing the old drip system and salvaging many of the parts so they can be recycled.

7: Tighten the wires that will hold the new sprinkler system – These wires are mostly already in place but have not been tightened since I replaced all the bamboo vine poles with iron rebar and braced the end posts on each row with metal props. Tightening includes synching the wire to each rebar pole next to every grape vine. (I didn’t get to this step or the next one on the 5th but did today, the 6th).

New main watering line on wire.

8: Install the main water line on the wire – This involves stretching out the coil of polypipe so it can warm up and straighten out in the sun, then slipping it along the wire through the vine branches. Finally cable ties synch it to the wire every 3 feet. (I’m waiting for irrigation parts from two different sources so the rest of the system is on hold.)

9: Wash bottles for Apple/Huckleberry wine – Recycling wine bottles over and over again takes a lot of work and attention to sanitation. Attempts have been made to make machines to do it, but they are not perfect and no one is doing it commercially with either machines or by hand. I have my bottle shed full of bottles sorted by style and color then stacked in cases. Getting newer cases in the right sizes is actually the hardest part because people are bringing me bottles almost every day. Since I only bottle 2 or 3 cases at a time, the two washings and 1 sterilization rinse don’t take too long and they can be done in the shade, a big bonus this time of year.

10: Check the gopher traps – This actually came first but is one of my “putting around” chores like charging the mower or trimming grass that don’t make it on the “To-Do” list.

11: Salvage drip line parts – Another in-the-shade project involves unwrapping the wires that held the old drip system parts together, cutting loose the “T”s and plugs and stacking the 1/2″ pipe in 6 foot sections. If anyone reading this can use some 1/2” irrigation parts, let me know. It’s all about recycling and these parts last a long time.

12: Cook dinner – Cheryl and I switch off every other night on this one. July 5th was my night. I made pasta and drank Lucie Kuhlmann wine.

(Cheryl was busy too but not with the vineyard.)

At the reunion with my brother Jeff and nephew Nick. Notice the family resemblance.

That’s all for the list. Life is not all work and no play. I got away for a family reunion in June and my daughter, April, came over for a visit with her and her husband’s family. We picked more mushrooms and sold them along with wine at the Farmer’s Market. But I count days when I can get through a long To-Do list as good days and switching from one chore to another as taking a break. A nice glass of wine at dinner is satisfying too.

Special Wines

One of the advantages of growing a winery out of a backyard vineyard is that you tend to have a variety of plants and wines. The disadvantage of course is that you may not have a tremendous amount of any one wine. These past few years neighbors have stepped in to add to both the variety and quantity of wines.

All of our wines are “natural” wines.  Some people include those with Sulfur Dioxide added as “natural”. We never add it or use poisonous chemicals to clean our equipment. There is also an article in WineMaker Magazine about Natural wine that emphasizes how hard it is to do. But you have to subscribe to see it so trust me it is there.

This Spring I have been bottling new 2016 wines every week. In addition to the red wines that are the mainstay of the winery, Lucie Khulmann, Marecal Foch, Baco Noir and Leon Millot, we have a selection of specialty wines. They do not show up in the product list on this website because many of them come and go so quickly posting them here is not worth the trouble. So if you want to try them, you will have to come for a tasting or stop by our booth at the Northeast Washington Farmers Market. Here is a list of current offerings:

Siegerrebe

This grape variety developed in Germany is a close relative of Madeleine Angevine. The finished wine has an intense aroma reminiscent of Muscat. This vintage is semi-sweet fresh, amber-colored and juicy. It would be very easy to drink a lot of it and we have almost 16 cases either bottled or on the way. It has become popular at the Farmers Market.

Muscat

I was eager to try making another white wine from these grapes after hearing that they were the first to sell out from a neighboring vineyard. After tasting them I could see why. This wine is also an orange color and semi-sweet. The grapes are from a certified organic vineyard just north of us. 2016 was a fine year for wine with a long hot summer that produced mellow tastes and powerful wines.

Riesling

Our Okanogan Riesling, unlike the white wines listed above is tart and dry. It is a crisp refreshing wine best chilled. We often serve it with artichokes or fish. It is cool-fermented to preserve the perfume of the Riesling grapes that drifts over the vineyard when they are ripe.

Apple Wine

Unlike cider, our apple wine is very clear, strong and as sweet as a fresh apple. To get those qualities without adding sugar, we concentrate the sugars by reducing the volume of juice by half, partly by freezing and partly by cooking it down in a stainless steel vat. The cooking imparts a slight caramel flavor. We use a mixture of wild and homestead apples along with organic Golden Delicious.

Huckleberry Wine

If you read the labels of commercial huckleberry wines, they are most often blended with Riesling. We introduce wild local frozen huckleberries that we picked ourselves into the primary fermentation of our Apple

Huckleberry

wine. This process extracts the color and flavor of the berries and uses the sweetness and body of the apple to blend a refreshing taste of the high mountains.

Elderberry-Apple

By themselves Elderberries are tart and sour, especially if they are picked before the first frost. We ferment them with the concentrated juice of our Apples to mellow out the tart flavor and highlight their wild taste. The combination has been a favorite in Northeast Washington for decades.

Cherry Wine

This is a rare treat. Two years ago John and Janet Crandall, owners of Riverview Orchard, gave us several hundred pounds of organic cherries. We concentrated the fresh juice using the same techniques as we do for Apple wine. The result is a wine with about the same sweetness as cherries but a lot of body and a very big cherry flavor that stays with you.

Lucie Rosé

Working with a crop of Lucie Khulmann grapes that were not as sweet as most, this vintage was tapped from the fermenter as free-run juice without pressing after only two days. The result is a lighter bodied wine that is semi-sweet and full of berry flavors. It is excellent with lighter meals or as an afternoon break.

It’s great to have such a variety of tastes in our inventory. You might want them in your’s too.

Morel Season

Morels in the burn

It’s that time of year again, Morel season. Even though there is a long list of things to do around the house, garden and vineyard, the call of the wild mushrooms lures us away to the sites of last year’s fires for a “Taste of the Wild”. This year we have been picking in the Bridge Creek Fire.

Patch with link to map

It continues to be a good area for picking and mapping. I have learned several things about making maps for use away from cell towers and a few about what information you can save even with access to cell towers. Also some of these pictures have links to Google Photos. When you follow them if a photo has location information in it Google will show you where it was taken. But enough geeky stuff.

We have gone from picking every mushroom we see no matter how small, to only picking bigger ones and usually those in groups. Somewhere along the line in a typical day fun becomes work. But we have managed to store a couple gallons of dried morels, sold some at the Farmers Market and to friends, traded for cheese and a massage, and eaten them almost every day. So it is exciting.

A Taste of the Wild Morels

My favorite memory is when Cheryl cooked some up with garlic, butter and some olive oil in our VW camper van during the Farmers Market. With morels selling at near $70/pound in Seattle and at $40/pound in Spokane, we feel very lucky to find them and have some extra.

The Best Day (links to Google map)

But like fishing, hunting and gold prospecting, there are stories of bigger and better mushrooms that we have not found yet… So far it has been good fun and good exercise. But it definitely has an addictive side that affects our other activities (AKA chores).

Building a Biome

“A biome is a specific environment that’s home to living things suited for that place and climate.” (Vocabulary.com)

Loading Compost from the City of Colville

Maybe I am still trying to apply my degree in philosophy, or just spend too much time alone in the vineyard, but there is a lot to think about in developing Regenerative Agriculture in a specific place. This last month the vineyard has dried out. The record-breaking rains of March and April were followed by record-breaking heat in May. That gave me a chance to have two 14 yard dump trucks full of leaf compost (actually more leaf than compost) from a fall yard-waste dump for the city of Colville brought in to my soil yard when the dump dried out enough for trucks. I am mixing it with cow manure, biochar and shredded branches and spreading it between the rows in the vineyard. This variety of carbon and living organisms is meant to build the soil and the soil in turn works with the grapes, grasses, clover and other cover crops in the vineyard to build a biome. (This term usually has a broader meaning such as Forest or Tundra.)

Link to a video of my soil yard

The main idea here is that a complete mixture of living organisms in all stages of their life cycles provides better nutrition for the grapes, better resilience against flood, drought, hot, cold, insects – whatever the climate throws at it – than any mixture of chemical fertilizer, tilling or decaying matter. I have already begun putting spent yeast from wine making back in the vineyard and will be adding shredded pruned canes as well as seeds and skins left from primary fermentation back as well. The cover crop will rebound from mowing and the symbiotic exchange of sugars from plant roots for water and minerals through mycorrhizal fungi will strengthen plant vitality. Fungi are already boosting my cutting reproduction from 50% to nearly 100%. There are lots of worms in the compost and bacteria creating nutrients as well. I’m trying to blend these ingredients to build a biome.

I expect that repeating application of these biome builders over several years will increase the fertility of the vineyard and therefore production. There are some arguments for stressing vines to improve sugar and the quality of the wine. My thinking is more like “Happy vines make happy wines.” We’ll have to see how this plays out.

A row of compost in the vineyard

One of the many books I read on regenerative agriculture this last winter noted that nature seems to be self-correcting. An organism that degrades the ecology and reduces bio diversity fouls its own nest and inevitably learns to limit its growth or dies out entirely by destroying its environment. An example might be leafhoppers. There were a lot of them in some parts of the vineyard this spring and I did spray some organic pesticide on them. But with a few good rain storms they have subsided markedly. New growth is sprouting up next to the leaves that they damaged. In the Fall, the inner leaves that they tend to weaken fade away and allow the sun to ripen the grapes sooner. As long as the plants grow rapidly, natural predators such as wasps, spiders and ladybugs will keep the leafhoppers in check.

I’m not sure I can paint an equally rosy picture for mites or powdery mildew. There is a lot of observation and learning left to do. The implicated principle however is that diversity builds resilience and that can be applied to people as well as plants and insects. History shows that immigrants tend to be hard-working adaptive people.

Scary Spring

Rhubarb coming up

It has been 41 days since we got back from Hawaii and today was warmer than any day we spent there. So Spring has Sprung. We even ate asparagus fresh out of the garden today and Cheryl is setting up feeders for hummingbirds. The local deer have gone from mangy and rangy to sleek and spunky. Eagles, owls and frogs are filling the day and night with sound. We stopped feeding suet to the birds and they have spread out to build nests in new territory. The snow has retreated to above 3000 feet. All of this is happening while we are scrambling to get ready for our first Farmers Market.

So what goes on in a vineyard this time of year? Priority one was pruning the grape vines. I usually try to do that as soon as the snow is melted. This year I pruned especially heavy leaving only one bud for this year where the best canes grew last year. Too often in the past I was leaving 2 – “just to make sure” – and that left too many weak canes. There will still be too many new shoots, but I’ll go through again to open up the interior of each vine.

The Grape Grower

This is also the time of year that I start new grape plants from cuttings. During the winter I did a lot of reading about grapes and soil. A really good guide to organic grapes is The Grape Grower, by Lon Rombough. In it he discusses mycorrhizal fungi, organisms that dissolve mineral nutrients from rocks and sand in exchange for sugars from living plant roots. By inoculating my grape cuttings with fungal spores and promoting new roots ahead of leaf growth, I doubled my percentage of rooted cuttings that are taking hold. In some cases to nearly 100%.

Rooted Cutting

Mycorrhizal fungi are a key component of the emerging practice of Regenerative Agriculture. On April 15th I gave a talk at our local Slow Food meeting on the many ways these methods are changing the world. At the same time I am putting my money and energy where my mouth is by preparing to lay down layers of compost, biochar, manure and shredded prunnings between the rows of grapes. There will doubtless be more about how that is going in subsequent blogs.

I was worried about my bottle supply since it depends on friends who recycle their corkable fifths with me. But not any more. Now my poor bottle shed has more than it can handle, which makes me all the more aware that I have not kept up with bottling wine. Some of the new additions in that realm include Siegerrebe 2016 from Downriver Orchards certified organic grapes. It is a refreshing white wine, not too tart and not too sweet with what some describe as a strawberry flavor. Along with that is an Orange Muscat (also

Crocus

from Downriver Orchard) that is way too easy to drink. Our Huckleberry/Apple combination is back in stock and more Dark Cherry is on it’s way. There are plenty of reds in the works too including a Lucie Kuhlman Rose that I’m sure will sell out fast. We had a tasting today and folks drove away with a bottle of almost everything they tried.

It’s turning into a scary Spring. Almost 80 degrees today. We are only burning a little firewood in the mornings. Last year the cold and wet weather stopped suddenly. The grass grew high and dried out for another nerve-wracking fire season. I didn’t start watering the whole vineyard and garden soon enough and things died. There is some rain in the forecast but it feels like the same thing is happening. Maybe it’s weird to be worried when trees and flowers are blooming, the grass needs mowing and you can wear shorts and T-shirts outside. Yikes! Now I’m worried about being worried. Forget about it. Enjoy the weather while you can.

2018 Grape Plants

Lingering Snow

It has been a long cold winter. But the sun is out and Spring is busting out all over. When we got back from an escape to Hawaii, there was still snow in the vineyard and in fact it was still snowing some days – but not sticking. That was a good time to take cuttings and to prune the vines for this year’s crop. It was also a good time to put some plants in the ground and it still is. Before I carry on about cuttings, wine, Regenerative Agriculture etc. here are descriptions of the vines that are looking good right now:

Fredonia

Fredonia: This grape is a close relative of Concord, but the grapes are much bigger and it gets ripe two weeks sooner. It can be eaten fresh or made into juice or wine. It does have seeds but is very hardy and a good choice for an all-around home-grown variety in Northeast Washington.

Baco Noir: As usual, Baco Noir is the happiest grape on the place. It grows enthusiastically and produces well. It ripens early, though not as early as some other reds. The wine is a bit lighter than most reds and has plenty of fruit flavor. It has become very popular on the East Coast and word is spreading in the West. It likes moist soil – maybe a little too much. If you have good soil and sun, give it plenty of space and plan on pruning significantly.

Okanogan Riesling

Okanogan Riesling: is another rich soil loving plant. It ripens earlier than other Riesling varieties but is still one of the last to mature in this northern climate. Riesling is a classic crisp white wine the way we make it, though it is often known in other places for being too sweet.

Marechal Foch: Named by Eugene Kuhlmann after the general that saved the French Alsace-Lorraine region from German Occupation in WW I, Marechal Foch is indeed a mighty grape. Again it likes good soil and will reward you for providing it with a rich red wine. (Even the pulp is red.) The most widely grown grape in Canada, Foch is a reliable producer and a popular dinner wine.

Siegerrebe: is technically a white grape though the color is more of an orange. It has milder acids that some describe as “strawberry” flavor. It produces abundantly and is a main crop in the vineyard at Down River Orchard, a neighbor and certified organic grower. We have a good supply of Siegerrebe Wine in Stock and invite you to try some wine and buy a vine.

Syrah: This well-known and widely grown variety grows well in our climate but takes ideal conditions to ripen fully. Every year seems to be warmer than the last and Syrah responds to these new conditions. If you are serious about making a pure red viniferous wine and have a good site, this might be the grape for you.

We have a few plants from 10 other varieties, but these are at the top of the list for health and inventory numbers right now.

The Little and Big Islands

The Little Island

Alameda Rainbow

It is unusual for us to take a full two week vacation, let alone to fly thousands of miles in the process. But we got a chance and we took it this spring to see the Big Island of Hawaii. But first we stopped by the little island of Alameda to see our daughter Bina and her family. So this blog is all about our trip. The next one will get back to pruning, planting and selling grape plants. (We have lots of photos from this trip and although there may be only one or two in the stories, they have links to albums of each adventure.)They were very good to us and over a couple of days we took a ride on the Alameda Ferry to San Francisco, explored the Exploratorium with our grand-kids, Ovid (now age 9) and Nala (age 6). Then we got a tour of Kite Boat, a cutting edge research and development workshop on the old Alameda airbase. Son-in-law, Joe Brock, is a major

Half Moon Bay Sunset

designer, builder and sailor of ever bigger, faster and more sophisticated versions of these craft. They are also bringing to market electric-powered hydrofoil paddle boards, a fun place to work and to visit. We went with them to the Oracle Center in Oakland and got free seats and a meeting with Loren who played “Ariel” the Little Mermaid, a star of the show.  Then we headed out to Half Moon Bay to explore Imagination, their 62 foot ketch (a two-masted, fore-and-aft-rigged sailboat with a mizzenmast stepped forward of the rudder and smaller than the foremast.) They are making an amazing transformation of this boat into something they can all both live on and sail on. It will actually take a crew to put it under full sail, and they are growing their own.

Volcano

Kilauea Caldera at Night

After an early morning liftoff from Oakland and flying over an ocean of clouds we arrived in Kona airport on the West Side of the Big Island of Hawaii under a bright Hawaiian sun. As the locals often told us, there are 13 distinct climates on the island, and we soon drove out of the noon-day sun over vast landscapes of barren lava through a pass between the snow-capped peaks of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea into the fog and Vog (Volcanic Fog) near Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. Joe’s old high school classmate, Mike Klungness, and his wife Gretchen put us up for a few days in Mountain View and showed us the sights. By far the most spectacular was the active caldera of Kilauea Volcano. During the day we could see red flashes of lava in the smoke. Back at the Jagger Museum viewpoint that night it was even more spectacular in the red glow of molten lava. After hiking through trails and the Thurston lava tube during the day we ate out at the Volcano House Lodge with the volcano right out the window.

Black Sand Beach

Sun bathing sea turtle

In our first adventure in our big black rented Jeep Wagoneer we stopped at the Black Sand Beach south of Kilauea. The hot sun, coconut palms and ocean breeze were a welcome change from the clouds where we were staying in Mountain View. The biggest attraction on the beach was a large sea turtle that at first looked dead but was just resting and sunning itself, much like most of us on the beach. Someone drew a line in the sand around it to keep tourists back. Eventually as the tide came in, it swam into the ocean. There is a short movie of that in the album linked to the picture. On the way back to the highway we spotted some Nene, the endangered native geese.

Green Sand Beach

Joe and Cheryl with green Sand

One of the reasons for the 4-wheel drive car was to manage the ruts on the drive to the Green Sand Beach near the very southern tip of the island. Once we got there we abandoned that idea. The “ruts” were several feet deep, often with mud at the bottom and their routes crisscrossed over the 2.25 mile drive to the beach. The car stayed clean and we paid for a ride in “Uncle Eddie’s” beat-up pickup truck. It was a great ride, part tour wagon and part roller coaster. The green sand is made from translucent Peridot crystals. The sandstone there is full of them and they seem to float to the surface of the black lava sand. Peridot is the green gem featured in the Moana Movie  that no one is supposed to take from the island. We tried not to but inevitably we brought back some green sand that stuck in our pockets.

Hilo Parks
Mike also guided us around the city of Hilo. Liliuokalani Park, right on Hilo Bay, has spectacular Banyan trees, lush lawns, spreading monkey pod trees and an expansive view of the ocean. Nearby is Rainbow Falls rich in legends and beauty. Upstream from it is another gem that many tourists miss called Boiling Pots. It has waterfalls, a grand tropical river vista and it’s own set of legends. Everywhere we went Hawaiian native culture was being interpreted. It is not just another State. It is the Hawaian homeland. We learned more about the local food at the farmers market where we picked up supplies and sat down to eat. I had Green Papaya stir-fry.

Pahoa-Kehena
We spend 4 days in this area, 2 in Pahoa and 2 with an old friend from Rose Valley, Eric Rosse at his spacious and substantial house in Kehena, right near another Black Sand Beach. This one is “clothing optional”, not a big attraction for old folks, but a beautiful beach with no improved access. In the morning with sun streaming in from the east and a few fishermen it is quiet and warm. If you really want warm, just up the road is Ahalanui warm pool park. The water there is geothermally heated. Colorful fish swim with you and nibble dead skin off your legs if you stand still. Another inlet just north of Ahalanui, the Champagne Ponds, is also fairly warm and it’s shallow waters are dotted with tiny islands and tide pools perfect for snorkeling, which I will learn to do if I ever get that chance again. We did do some dining and shopping in Pahoa, a somewhat rustic tourist town. It did have a great natural foods store, cute shops and a variety of restaurants. But staying with Eric was the best. We played Scrabble, ate BBQ every night, shared stories and just relaxed.

Mamalahoa Highway

Akaka Falls

From Kehena we drove north on the Mamalahoa Highway along the coast, stopping at beaches and waterfalls, the most spectacular of which is ‘Akaka Falls, a 442ft sheer drop with a fascinating fish, the o’opu alama’o, a 5 inch long species of goby. It spawns above the falls, the young are flushed to the ocean and then they climb back up using a suction disk on their chest and pectoral fins when it is time to return. We also stopped at the Laupahoehoe Point Memorial dedicated to teacher and children at a school near the beach who died in a Tsunami on April 1st, 1946. These islands are generally pleasant but once in awhile a tsunami, hurricane or lava flow will just plain wipe things out. We were pretty tired when we arrived at our last stop, an AirBnB in the hills near Kalopa State Park above Honoka’a on the north end of the island. It has a spectacular vista of the ocean when the clouds lifted enough to see it. This Part of the

island gets 200 inches of rain a year.

Honoka’a

Honoka’a is a little spiffier tourist town than Pahoa, but not as commercial as it’s neighbor Waimea. We ate at Il Mundo,

Ancient Lava Tube

a great Italian restaurant, bought some earrings at a very nice local art and glass gallery and went exploring on the old Mamalahoa highway for a lava tunnel, just known as Cave #3 on our GPS tour app. We found it with a little help from some locals. It was very foggy and rainy outside. Cheryl elected not to explore the cave which had some structures built by early Hawaiians and a lot of branching tunnels and passages. Taking pictures inside was tricky and I basically failed. It reminded me of many local abandoned mines. Back at the AirBnB we basically vegged out along with Louie the friendly house-dog and Layla the cat, both of whom liked to snuggle up with guests. The next day we explored nearby Kalopa State Park hiking a nature trail that was wet (as well as the pieces of a guide book for it). The sun came out in the afternoon and we enjoyed it along with some geckos at the B&B.

Mahukona Beach

Acacia Tree on Mahukon nature trail

Our plane left at 10 PM on Wednesday March 14th. We spent the day sightseeing on the way from Honoka’a to the airport. That included a statue of Kamehameha in Hawi that was recovered from a shipwreck; a trip over Kohala mountain that had wide-open ranch land and prickly pear cactus and a hike along what was once a railroad line for a sugar cane mill at Mahukona Beach. We watched a school of Yellow Tang fish near the old loading dock, spotted several feral cats and (as happened every day we were there) a mongoose or two. We ate our final Hawaiian meal at the Sea Bar Restaurant in Kawaihae, turned in the jeep at the airport and waited in 80 degree heat at the outside boarding area for Alaska flight 880 to Seattle. Not our usual first two weeks of March but ones we will remember more than the rest. Aloha!