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Harvest 2018: Whites, Reds & Rain

Harvest 2018: Whites, Reds & Rain

Rain. Every farmer’s gleeful dream or worst nightmare.

All throughout history and all across the globe, civilizations pray desperately for rain to fall on parched land or they beg for it to cease… 

With us being rooted in Maryland (and all our Mid-Atlantic friends will say “amen!” to this…) we have a “finicky” relationship with rain and weather - we are blessed in that we experience the beauty of all four seasons to the fullest, but at the same time the weather here can have extreme shifts - changing at the drop of the hat. 

No two springs are the same.

No two summers are the same.

Which means that each fall when harvest comes around… all our harvests are most definitely never the same.

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This year’s biggest hurdle has been, you guessed it, the rain.

The good news is that the majority of Hurricane Florence stayed south of us (our best goes out to our friends in the Carolinas and Virginia!)… but that doesn’t mean that we didn’t have an abundance of rain this past season.

At this point, we're not changing our plans in any significant way as a result of the rain. We've harvested a significant percentage of our grapes for white wine, pét nat and rosé over the past couple of weeks. We're happy to report everything looks and, more importantly, tastes pretty good to this point in the vintage.

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So, what's behind our good fortune? Well, no simple answer will suffice, but I think three main things contributed: 

1) Our people.

It's often said that good fortune resides at the intersection of preparation and patience… throughout the past year we have worked diligently and skillfully to find just the right individuals to add to our growing team - we haven’t rushed… we’ve waded and sifted through countless resumes and applications… it’s through that patience and diligence that we have created a team with a unified mission, value, and drive to create remarkable products worthy of the OWW label.

We cannot thank our team enough.

2) Our partners.

We are blessed to work with a band of hard-working and conscientious farmers. Their goal, like ours, is to produces grapes -- and subsequently wine -- worth celebrating. In addition to our home vineyard, we work closely with neighboring vineyards to source grapes. Grüner Veltliner, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and others from Cool Ridge Vineyard perched atop a limestone hillside on South Mountain. Pinot Grigio, Viognier and Cabernet Franc from the Libertas Estate situated on a magnificent, rocky hillside in Mt Airy. Chardonnay and Muscat from the sandy, well-drained soils at Turkey Point Vineyard in North East. Our multi-vineyard, Maryland-grown approach allows us to craft wines that reflect our region’s diverse geologies and variable climate.

3) New sustainable farming practices.

We're in the process of piloting a new sustainability certification process on the east coast. Currently there are no SIP (Sustainability In Practice) certified vineyards on the east coast. It's a California based program aimed at preserving and protecting the natural environment, treating employees and the community with care, and having sound business practices with a long-term view that protects both the present and the future. For us, this involved no herbicides – we manage undervine weeds manually; no synthetic insecticides – we use stylet oil, kaolin clay organic, biological materials to manage japanese beetles, fruit flies, mites, etc.; minimal fungicides – we stylet oil, copper, sulfur, and phosphoric acid to manage powdery mildew, downy mildew, phomopsis, botrytis, etc.; biodynamics – last year we started incorporating biodynamic preparations into our farm. In particular, BD508 was in every spray we used this year and it seems to have worked some magic! BD508 is a biodynamic preparation also known as Horsetail (Equisetum Arvense) Preparation. It is a ferment or ‘tea’ style preparation that is applied direct to the soil and plant. It's traditionally used to control or limit fungal growth, especially powdery and downy mildew. It is both a preventative and curative preparation.

So with all that being said, here’s the lowdown on the grapes:

REDS

Looking ahead, we are mostly concerned about the reds -- ripening is going to be tricky… As a result, we're switching up our program to focus more on carbonic/juicy style reds this season. These styles are much better suited to fruit with lower phenolic ripeness, lower sugar content and higher natural acidity. We've even got a new 1,500 gal foeder to break in with whole-cluster CF next week. :)

WHITES

As for our whites, they're in great shape. Harvest began with a bang on Labor Day weekend. Chardonnay and Albarino came in with good yields and chemistries. Pinot Gris, Viognier and Riesling were a bit light (mostly due to rain during bloom), but the flavors and character more than made up for the loss in volume. The theme of this season's crop is lower than normal yields, moderate natural acidity and sugar levels. The fermentations are ticking away wildly and the aromas and flavors are vibrant… We have much to be thankful for!

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So as you can see, it has been an eventful season thus far… but we are on the up and up! We are expectant and excited to share our newest products with you soon; thank you for your continued support. Stay tuned for more updates!

Until next time; cheers!

Farming Thoughtfully, Not Dogmatically

Farming Thoughtfully, Not Dogmatically

Vines, like people, display their needs. Sometimes in obvious and concerning ways, and other times in subtle, peculiar ways. It takes the experienced and discerning eye of the caregiver to take notice and make adjustments. For the vigneron, there’s no substitute for time in the vineyard. If we don't stop to look and listen, we could potentially miss out on producing the best wines possible. It all starts in the vineyard.

The collective goal of winegrowers should be to improve the quality of our grapes and the way we farm for the sake of our wines and the planet we all inhabit. 

Organics are important. Farming with as few inputs as possible ought to be our strategy. That’s why I use organic materials and principles as often as possible. But I’ve learned that there are also times when synthetic materials are less invasive and more effective.

It’s our feeling at Old Westminster Winery & Vineyard that we ought to encourage the research and development of new materials, and resist the temptation to outright reject them. 

Wine growers, including myself at times, fail to zoom out and look at the big picture – where we learn that rotation of spray material and timing are just as important as the materials used. Cover crops and nutrient management plans encourage healthier vines with stronger immune systems that demand fewer inputs.

So I’ve learned that it’s wise to listen, observe, learn and share.

I am certain of one thing: I will do things a bit differently – and hopefully better – every passing year because I’m always listening and learning. If I come across a new, interesting idea, I’ll thoroughly research it. And I may even try it.

We believe that our wines will no doubt improve as a result of continuous learning and future generations will thank us.

-Drew Baker, Vigneron