The Vineyards of Wending Home, Spring 2023

Winemaker Blog June 7, 2023

Being a grape grower and winemaker in Ontario is not for the faint of heart … or for those with meager reserves of finances.  I will take you through a struggle that we have had at Wending Home for the past 2 years.  Warts and all, but with a hopeful ending.

The vines that we love for our wines are of marginal hardiness in our climate.  Temperatures of -18 to -20 deg C during the depths of winter can kill the tiny buds that hold the fruit potential for the next year.  Temperatures colder than that can also cause vines to die.  Although our vineyards are in a favourable location in the VQA sub-appellation of Creek Shores, it is by no means a guarantee of protection from winter damage.  In the winter of 2021-2022 we faced a brief time when the temperatures dropped to -23 deg C.  This, combined with a fall that did not allow the vines to adequately reach full dormancy in the winter was a recipe for vulnerability. 

As a result of the conditions described, we suffered through the vintage of 2022 with zero grapes at harvest.  That’s right, no harvest, no grapes.  Many of the vines also died and were pulled out.  Replanting will occur but to get a replanted vine back to production takes 4 or 5 years, and the quality of wine from those grapes is best after another decade or more of vine age.  There are other issues that compound the problems of replanting but to make this message simple – There is a ton of work involved in getting those spindly sticks to the point that they will give us grapes. 

But …

This spring, the vines that survived are showing resilience.  There will be a crop.  We hope it will be great but just seeing those nascent grape florets is a tonic of hope.  These grape flowers will be pollinated and then fruitful.  The flowering will be in a few weeks. 

Let’s celebrate that hope with a toast of Wending Home wines – see our current offerings and indeed some limited time sales that we have.  

Below are some described photos of our vineyard on June 7th.

A heap of thousands of vines pulled out last year.
A dead vine, it gave it’s last in 2021
I’m Not Dead Yet!!
A Chardonnay vine struggling to push shoots from it’s base to rejuvenate the vine. Must be careful to avoid the green shoots of the rootstock though since all vines are grafted to roots that are specialized for disease resistance and other factors. These are true Chardonnay shoots that will be encourage to regrow the vine. After last year’s damage, this will take another year. The dead truck will be cut off.
Here is what a recovering vine looks like. This vine will have a small (less than half) of a crop this year. Why 2 trucks? We try to have 2 trunks because it is an insurance policy of sorts that increases the chance of survival. That is another viticultural technique that decades of experience have taught many of Niagara’s vineyard owners.
Here is a photo of our Cabernet Franc vineyard. A sad testament to the effect of some bad winters. The decision-making process now is whether to try and fill-in the vines that are missing or to start again and pull out the remaining vines. This year the vines will be tended and give their fruit. (It does look better at the other end of the rows).
Here is what a healthy Chardonnay vine looks like in spring! Although the main trunks of this vine are not large, it is because of periodic renewals of the trunks as shown and described above. This vine has about 18 shoots on it. This should give us a crop of about 3 Tonnes per acre, if all vines were present but they are not.
This shows a reasonably full section in the Chardonnay block where the rows appear normal and healthy.
This is a floret in the Pinot Gris block. A picture of hopefulness!
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