Rain, Rain, Glorious Rain!

Last spring, we were blessed with an abundance of rain, Texas was officially out of the drought status for the first time in over 8 years! For farmers and fellow grape growers this was amazing! Our well was finally producing at a faster rate, and we had to irrigate less because Mother Nature was at it in full force. Now with this blessing came a major lesson for Good Vibe Vineyards, another one to put down in the ‘Lesson’s Learned’ category of this blog – BLACK ROT. Two small words that bear very big consequences.

Black rot, by definition, (Guignardia bidwellii (Ellis)) is a potentially devastating fungal disease that can infect the leaves, shoots, berries and cluster stems of grapes.[1] This devastating fungal disease is brought on by excess moisture, combined with heat and humidity. Texas weather is a perfect recipe for this disaster. It takes as little as six hours for the Black Rot develop after a good rain and humid conditions. Six hours! And only 24 hours of persistent leaf wetness for the spores to germinate and infect other areas of the vineyard. For people that manage their vineyard from afar, like we do, that is distressing. And to top it all off, we are still learning. Sure, Erik has been attending classes and has learned about various diseases and what to do for them, and we have great intentions about doing everything right, but the reality is there is so much to know and understand about the fundamentals of grape growing. We were rejoicing in the fact that we finally had a rainy season after suffering the first several years in drought conditions and this one snuck up on us very quickly.

Jacto tower sprayer extraordinaire 

Jacto tower sprayer extraordinaire 

Now, black rot is not always evident in the early part of the growing season. In fact, your berries will typically develop as normal at first, you will see tight beautiful clusters, and look forward to a bountiful harvest only to find the seemingly perfect berries shriveled into raisins somewhere in the middle to the end of the growing season. These shriveled berries are known as mummies. This is exactly how it went for us this past July. We had gone out to the vineyard to net the fruit (please refer to previous lesson learned blog on netting early) only to discover that our once beautiful berries were now mostly raisins (mummies). I cannot begin to explain the level of disappointment we felt. We decided at that point not to waste our time netting the fruit and left it for the birds and the bees to enjoy.

What we learned:

1.      Rain is a blessing, but can also bring with it an environment for disease development.

2.      Spray timing is critical! Early in the season and prior to bloom.

3.      Removing all the mummied fruit and burning it is essential so that the spores do not spread further throughout the vineyard.

4.      Sanitation is key as well. Sanitize your instruments that are used in the vineyard to avoid further contamination.

5.      Be thankful for the lessons Mother Nature provides us. We can’t change what is done, but we can learn from these valuable lessons and not repeat our mistakes.

This year we brought in the big guns and purchased a Jacto Tower Sprayer. We can do in as little as four hours what used to take us two to three days to accomplish with the handheld sprayer! It's a beautiful thing. We worked with Kyle Mayer from Mustang Equipment in Marble Falls and had an excellent experience. I highly recommend them! 

[1] https://grapesandwine.cals.cornell.edu/newsletters/appellation-cornell/2014-newsletters/issue-17/managing-black-ro

Bottling Shenanigans!

We recently had the opportunity to experience bottling wine at Wedding Oak Winery. Very cool to see the wine bottling truck back into the facility and the operation get under way. Great concept too, as you rent the bottling equipment and that cuts down capital costs. Not only did we get to bottle some of the wines we already love from Wedding Oak but we also got to bottle wine for a new startup winery, Star of Texas Winery, opening in Early, Texas this year! Brian and Moira were just awesome people, full of excitement and enthusiasm for the Texas Wine Industry. So refreshing to see people with their boots on the ground, working hard to get a family-owned operation up and running. I hope to spend some time with them in their tasting room in the near future! 

It's great to see a wine-loving community come together and volunteer to get the bottling done, the volunteer jobs varied from labeling, boxing, and stacking. Nothing labor intensive and the best part is each volunteer was rewarded with a delicious bottle of wine at the end as a token of appreciation. 

Thank you to Wedding Oak Winery for this fun opportunity and we look forward to the day that it is our wine being put into those bottles! 

2017! A New Year, A New Leaf!

3ofus.jpg

Here we are at the beginning of yet another vineyard season! This year feels different, I have butterflies in my stomach just thinking about it. This is the first year that I (April) will be leading the charge out here. With the birth of our son, Cash, I have quit my eleven-year career to stay home and take care of the family and ultimately run the vineyard. In years past I focused so heavily on my job at the office that I neglected to learn all that I maybe could have, or should have, at the vineyard. Needless to say, I am extremely excited about it and I just know in my heart that I have made the BEST decision for our family and for myself! Of course, I couldn’t even think about being successful without lots of help from Erik and the support from our awesome family and friends.

Over the past few months we have been very busy prepping for the upcoming season. We have added an additional water well to address the water deficit that has plagued us over the past few years and to supply water to our future home as well. We have now added the double wires to the trellis system allowing the vines to be supported as they grow up and towards the sun and we are working on some general clean up out there as well.

We are very excited to be working with Fritz Westover as our vineyard consultant this year. Fritz has a wealth of knowledge and brings with him nearly 20 years of experience in the industry. We strongly believe working with him will get us exactly where we need to be, and that with his help and our history of lessons learned, we will finally enjoy our first successful harvest this year! 2017 is looking bright out here at Good Vibe Vineyards!

Get Your Net On!

Our version of the 'Netter Getter'.

Our version of the 'Netter Getter'.

Now Good Vibe Vineyards could probably have a whole dedicated blog page to 'Lessons Learned the Hard Way' - netting is one great example of that fact. Let me start by recapping last year's adventure in netting and what we did differently this year.

Andrew Hubbard, Hard Worker Extraordinaire

Andrew Hubbard, Hard Worker Extraordinaire

We are so blessed to have Erik's Dad on our team out at the vineyard. I call him El Jefe as he really runs the show full time out there. One of his many talents is cost savings, some of those are great, while others we have to remind him about a dollar well spent. His great ideas more than make up for the ones that are less than great. The Netter Getter (see Nettergetter.com for more details) is a bird netting applicator that quickly and efficiently deploys netting over the vines to keep the birds away. While it is an excellent piece of machinery it comes at a price. El Jefe came up with a system so that we could deploy our netting in the same way with very little cost. This system worked well last year with just a few snags (literally) that we were able to work out this year. While the deploying was simple we didn't stretch the net effectively last year causing us to have a lot of slack in one area and no slack in others. I think the biggest headache we faced last year was sewing the nets on the bottom to keep the birds from sneaking their way up inside the netting. The sewing technique is very tedious, time consuming and FRUSTRATING. We ended up only sewing shut two or three rows last year and not very effectively. This year Erik saw  a post on the yahoo forums about using bread clips to close the nets off. Wow, let me just say, mind = blown! How did we not think of this??? It was still back breaking work with all of the bending and/or squatting to get it done, but it turned out BEAUTIFULLY done, so clean and way less frustrating.  

Our failed attempt at netting last year resulted in losing our first viable crop, it would have been a small 1/2 ton crop, but instead we walked away with half of a 5-gallon bucket and a valuable lesson.

What we learned: 

  1. Net early, before the grapes start to turn. Once they are sweet and delicious the birds move in and the wasps and bees are sure to follow.

  2. Spread the netting out on either side while deploying your nets, more slack is always better than not enough.

  3. Ditch the old school method of sewing those nets. It's a miserable task and way too time consuming. Buy bread clips, enough to clip on either side of the vine and one in the middle between each vine. So calculate 3 bread clips per vine when ordering.

  4. Have an amazing team of hard workers! Not only does it go much faster but it makes it a lot more fun.

Jeadean Meade, Erik Reyes, April Reyes, Craig Hubbard, Jennifer Hubbard, Andrew Hubbard, Ally Hubbard, Kloe Sniegowski, Abby Hubbard