The Northern Grapevine

Late Fall at Victory View Vineyard

In The Vineyard

Mary tried, but failed to take a photo of flying geese!

As thousands and thousands of Canada geese fly over the vineyard, the leaves have fallen and the vines have become dormant for Winter. Only our Melody vines still hold their grapes – awaiting several days of sub 20 degree temperatures so we can harvest frozen grapes to make ice wine. The trick is to pick grapes that have most of their water frozen into ice and press them whole to produce a juice of highly concentrated sugars. We wonder if the colder weather will arrive before foraging birds do the “harvest” for us! Trying to make ice wine is always a risky venture, but with a bountiful 2013 harvest already fermented and aging in the winery it is risk we are happy to take.

Perhaps future ice wine.

The rest of the vineyard appears barren, a wild skeleton of brown and hardened woody growth from last season. This is a time when the vines store energy – carbohydrates in the form of starch – that will power a burst of new growth with the longer days and warmer temperatures of next Spring. Grapevines need this period of dormancy, at least 60 days, to prepare for the next growing season. We will leave the vines untouched until late Winter lest we disturb their slumber. So until the end of February, when we will begin annual pruning, the vineyard sees little activity, an occasional cross country skier, deer looking for a comfortable bedding area, or passing turkeys searching for a tidbit of food.

In the Winery

Gerry takes sample from oak barrel to taste.

Activity slows down in the winery in November, too. After the frenzy of harvest, crushing, and pressing, and primary fermentation that occurs in September and October, the wine is ‘put to bed’ in tanks. Our wines made from Marquette, Maréchal Foch, and LaCrosse grapes undergo malolactic fermentation while still in stainless steel tanks. Malolactic fermentation reduces acidity and produces softer wines. These wines will soon be racked into oak barrels for aging. Some Marquette will go into French oak for up to a year, other Marquette and the Maréchal Foch will go into Minnesota oak for six months or longer and the LaCrosse will go into hybrid oak barrels (Minnesota oak staves, French oak heads) for up to six months. Our German-style wines made from La Crescent grapes do not undergo malolactic fermentation and will stay in stainless steel tanks until they are ready for bottling.

In November we continue to monitor the wine, but try not to disturb the process any more than necessary. We check the seals and pressure gauges on the tanks to make sure the lids are tight and the wine is protected from exposure to air. We take samples every several weeks, measuring pH and acidity; evaluating color and aroma; and, the best part, tasting. We stoke the wood-burning furnace to keep the winery at the optimal temperature. We vacuum up the few fruit flies that persist and restock the tasting room shelves. Occasionally, the winemaker sits down at his desk to take advantage of ‘November’s down time’ to read a good book or to draft plans for that bigger, better tasting room.

In the Kitchen

As the temperatures drop our meals get heartier. As a culinary change of pace - soups, pot roasts, and stews grace the table along with our wine. We believe all our wines pair well with food. Lafayette pairs well with roasted red meats, grilled salmon or halibut, and roasted duck. We drink Turning Point with all roasts of beef, pork, and lamb, spicy Italian food, Mexican dishes, and with our favorite venison and rabbit recipes. Recently we had a turkey dinner with some family members. Our white wines, Charlotte and Fieldstone paired well with roasted turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, brussel sprouts, and cranberry sauce. We also discovered that Fieldstone pairs well with pumpkin pie. Who knew?