Winter & Vineyard Friends

February 27th, 2011

What a crazy winter we’ve been having again this year.  Last year the snow was in February, this year it was mostly in January.  Last year we had over 6 feet of snow throughout the season, this year only about 2 ½ feet.  Not as much but surely enough.  Since the temperatures were so cold in January when we were covered with snow, the grapevines remained insulated.  This is actually good for the vines that would normally be more sensitive to the colder temperatures.  Also, since the snow wasn’t waist high we were able to complete winter pruning on schedule.  We’re still tying vines and as soon as the snow melts we’ll be gathering all of the cuttings.  Before you know it, buds will be popping, then breaking open and leaves will be on the vines.

Before pruning and covered in snow!

Before pruning and covered in snow!

Another image before  pruning.

Another image before pruning.

After pruning.

After pruning.

A close-up view of the freshly pruned vines.

A close-up view of the freshly pruned vines.

This year we’ve been checking out the activity in the vineyard when we’re not looking.  I have an outdoor, motion sensored camera that has taken some very interesting photographs.  So far we’ve gotten no surprises – we know we have deer ….. a lot of deer … and we also have more birds than a vineyard needs.  These are 2 of my favorite pictures, we’ve gotten a lot of laughs out of our new “deer” friend.  Although birds are not “friends” of the vineyard I also think this is a really neat picture.  Enjoy the photos and remember spring is just around the corner.  Come on out to visit!

Our "Deer" Friend.

Our "Deer" Friend!

Lots of birds!

Lots of birds!


Jim Kirkpatrick
Kreutz Creek Vineyards

News from Penns Woods Winery

February 7th, 2011

We recently bottled our newest vintages and I am very excited to release them!

This photo is the bottles being washed and gassed before the wine goes inside.


Next, we fill the bottles…


Then, we cork them …


And lastly, we put the foil on top!


During the month of February, we will be featuring our newest release red for Wine & Chocolate Month!


On the Vineyard Front …


I was out tending to the vines in the middle of January’s snow storm! The winter is passing by beautifully with temperatures mild enough that we have not seen a drop of winter injury to the vines.

Enjoy what is left of the snow!


Gino Razzi
Penns Woods Winery

Sparkling Wine Debut Worth the Wait

January 25th, 2011

The first batch of sparkling wine, called Esperanza, produced in-house at Twin Brook Winery, has finally made its debut.  What is sparkling wine?  If you’re familiar with Champagne, sparkling wine produced in the Champagne region of France, then you know about sparkling wine.  Since our sparkling wine was produced in our winery in Gap, Pennsylvania and not in France, it must be called “sparkling wine”.

The process began in 2008, from the Chardonnay harvest.  We made the cuvee’ (the batch of wine to be used for the sparkling wine) from Chardonnay picked early to ensure that it had a good acid structure and lower sugar level.

In June of 2009, we put the wine in Champagne bottles with yeast, sugar, and a special type of clay.  The clay helps to keep the yeast from sticking to the bottle.  At this point, the bottle has a crown cap, the same type used for beer. The bottle rests on its side for at least 15 months.  During this time, the yeast ferments the sugar producing more alcohol and carbon dioxide.  Since the gas can’t escape, its dissolved into the wine, making bubbles.  Pressure builds inside the bottle to around 90 psi.

Tirage is taking place.  Tirage is the amount of time that the wine rests in the bottle while coming in contact with the yeast sediment.

The wine is resting and tirage is taking place Tirage is the amount of time that the wine rests in the bottle while coming in contact with the yeast sediment.

Next the wine is riddled, or agitated and turned upside down, so the yeast falls into the neck of the bottle.

Riddling the wine.

Riddling the wine.

When riddling is complete, we chill the bottle to around 32 degrees with a cooling plate in a brine solution.

Disgorging is the next step.  The bottle is held upside down and the crown cap is removed.   The pressure in the bottle blows the yeast out of the bottle.  We quickly flip the bottle up so that we lose as little of the wine as possible.  With the wine being cold, we do not lose much of the gas.

A time consuming process:  disgorging each bottle by hand.

A time consuming process: disgorging each bottle by hand.

Now with the bottle open, we add what is called the dosage.  The dosage contains sulfite, a preservative, and sugar, if you want a sweet sparkling.  My sparkling has no sugar.

Sparkling wine corks are huge, and not very easy to put in the bottle.  We borrowed a corker from Victory Brewing Co. to help us get these in.  The wire hood comes next, then the foil and finally the label.

The corker used to put the cork in the bottle.  Bottles are "corked" one at a time.

The corker used to put the cork in the bottle. Bottles are "corked" one at a time.

The process is quite lengthy, and disgorging is a very cold project, but the magical sparkling wine that’s produced is worth the wait!  We are only disgorging a few cases at a time, so call ahead if you plan on buying some.

The final product:  well worth the wait!

The final product: well worth the wait!


Tim Jobe

A Truly Magnificent Vintage for the Brandywine Valley…with some Caveats

November 11th, 2010

By this time you’ve probably heard a collective sigh from all the vintners of the Brandywine Valley, relief that another vintage is in the tanks – and yes, the 2010 vintage is being declared “superb.”  But, having suffered heavy hail damage in June, this season has been very stressful at my place.  Hail not only reduced my crop by about 1/3, it also affected how the vine ripened and cared for its berries.   Happily, damaged berries either dropped off or became scarred and woody, so ripening the resultant smaller crop made for some awesome grapes.

In what may be equal to or better than the magnificent 2007 vintage in our region, it is thrilling to walk thru the cellar, see the deep color staining my hands, smell great fruit and taste intense berry flavors in even the raw juicet  Those warm dry sunny days forced the vine to focus on its fruit rather than green growth so we got smaller berries with high sugars.  Specific to red wine, the cool nights enhanced the color, preserved acidity and sustained the wonderful texture of mouth-filling tannins in the mouth.  (Please God, don’t let me screw this up.)  One thing for sure, the Wine Trails 2011 Barrels on the Brandywine next March is going to be one kick-ass event, when winemakers from this region begin to show these beauties in our cellars.

-Eric Miller, Chaddsford Winery

Bottling Frenzy at Black Walnut Winery

November 5th, 2010

We knew we had a lot of bottling to do before the 2010 harvest, but there were several special projects competing for our attention this spring/summer and unfortunately, we got distracted.  First there was the outdoor patio—complete with a stage for bands—for our outdoor concert series at the winery in Sadsburyville that had to be designed and developed.  Next, we had to fit out the space we leased in Phoenixville for our new tasting room which opened in September.  All too soon, harvest was upon us weeks earlier than expected due to an early bud break from the unseasonably warm temperatures in March and April.  Along with that and the near perfect summer temperatures and lack of rain,  we found ourselves scrambling to assemble bottling crews that were literally emptying tanks just in time for the arrival of grapes on the crush pad.  We managed to stay just ahead of the curve thanks to staff, family, friends, volunteers and the flexibility of our grower.  Overall, more than 1,300 cases of wine (16,000+ bottles) were bottled at Black Walnut between September 3rd and October 30th.  During that same time, we crushed and pressed approximately 30 tons of grapes of 7 different varietals.   It is a massive understatement to say that we are a little tired.

Every year we say the same thing, but next year we will work to get caught up with our bottling prior to the arrival of even one grape.

Lance Castle
Black Walnut Winery

Patone Cellars: Just the Beginning

October 25th, 2010
Patone Cellars provides a glimpse of their future site in Landenberg, Pennsylvania.
–From Mario Patone, Patone Cellars
The day after our purchase of 8 acres for the future site of Patone Cellars Vineyards and Winery.

The day after our purchase of 8 acres for the future site of Patone Cellars Vineyards and Winery.

This hillside site was chosen to provide natural temperature control.

This hillside site was chosen to provide natural temperature control.

The site was stripped and prepared for excavation.

The site was stripped and prepared for excavation.

Ground breaking---heavy machinery at work!

Ground breaking---heavy machinery at work!

In this photo, the foundation has been excavated and prepared for footings and foundation.

In this photo, the foundation has been excavated and prepared for footings and foundation.

The future site of our vineyards.

The future site of our vineyards.

Mario Patone pouring wines at our current winery location.

Mario Patone pouring wines at our current winery location.

Our combination house and winery contains the winery in the basement and house abovce.  The single hillside building provides natural climate control for the winery without using additional land for a separate house and winery.  The Mediterranean design compliments our ambition to create wines in a European fashion.

Our combination house and winery contains the winery in the basement and house abovce. The single hillside building provides natural climate control for the winery without using additional land for a separate house and winery. The Mediterranean design compliments our ambition to create wines in a European fashion.

The Fruits of My Labor

August 30th, 2010

Harvest is just about upon us and for some it has already started.  Due to the hot weather this season, our grapes are a week to 10 days early with ripening.  Now we just need to keep our fingers crossed for a dry fall and absolutely no hurricanes!  You’re looking at grapes from the vineyard:

Vidal Blanc

Vidal Blanc





They’re looking good and the sugar numbers are progressing.  I like to pick at about 24 brix, now we’re at about 18 brix so we’re almost there!  Brix is the unit of measure for the sugar level in the grape.  As the brix level increases, the acid level decreases.  These are both measurements used to indicate when the grapes are ready for picking.

I’m in the process of cleaning lugs for picking, the crusher, the press and tanks…..all in preparation for this year’s harvest.  It’s a crazy time of year but this vintage is going to be fabulous.  I can’t wait to taste the fruits of my labor.

Jim Kirkpatrick
Kreutz Creek Vineyards

Its Here! Harvest 2010

August 26th, 2010
Harvesting Chaddsford Winery's crop.

Harvesting Chaddsford Winery's crop.


I don’t know about other winemakers, but harvest time is when I become nice again. Or that’s what my family and vineyard crew tell me. The last two or three weeks of the grape growing season, the final weeks before picking begins, my skin doesn’t fit, my temples throb, I’ve lost my confidence in equipment repairs, my negotiations with the weatherman guaranteeing clear dry weather for the next few weeks have again failed and I cry a lot. I feel like an over-due pregnant woman, pacing, waiting, wondering when it’s all going to begin so I can finally come face to face with the stranger I’ve been gestating since last harvest.

The hardest part of the whole process is pulling the trigger, making the final decision for the first grapes to begin coming in. Up to that moment, even if we’ve done everything right and the weather has been cooperative, we’ve probably undergone seven different scenarios about how it might go, and everyone, from vineyard crew to cellar dwellers to new harvest interns are full of adrenalin and anticipation and just waiting to go.

As harvest approaches, the vine is responding to the angle of the sun, the length of the day’s light, and everything that’s happened over the growing season to stimulate the hormonal rush to making ripe berries. The vine’s green growth has stopped and all of its energy is now focused on the fruit. For we vintners, these last few weeks before harvest are a time of sampling the grapes and estimating harvest dates. We do this by pulling representative samples from each field of each variety. These are tested, tasted and visually evaluated for sugar, acid, tannins, appropriate flavors, ripeness of seeds and condition of fruit. And then, somewhere in this process, a decision is made that everything lines up according to the stars and off we go.

For me, at Chaddsford Winery, it happened this week – several weeks ahead of our “typical” harvesting schedule which usually begins mid-September. But the numbers were right, the flavor was there, and so we begin by picking the Vignoles in our Miller Estate Vineyard in northern Chester County (to become next year’s Spring Wine). And so another vintage is born. Stay tuned because you’ll be hearing much more about the 2010 vintage as things get rolling across the Brandywine Valley and we get to know a bit more about what this year’s wines will be like – and what you’ll be able to taste at next March’s Barrels on the Brandywine tasting!

Eric Miller
Chaddsford Winery

Third Hedging Complete at Kreutz Creek Vineyards

August 1st, 2010

Below are pre- and post- hedging pictures in the vineyard. A hedger is a contraption we attach to the front of the tractor. It has several blades placed along the side bar that trim the vines along the sides and top. We drive the tractor close to the rows so the hedger can remove all unnecessary growth. By hedging, we allow the vine to spend its energy making great tasting quality ripe grapes instead of trying to grow long shoots. This also allows more sunshine to reach the grapes that enhance the ripening process. We usually do this 3 or 4 times a season.

The vineyard rows before hedging:




The hedger:


Jim driving the tractor with the hedger attached:



The vineyard rows after hedging:




Not only is this a good process for the grapes but it also leaves the vineyard looking as though it’s had a professional “manicure”!


Jim Kirkpatrick
Kreutz Creek Vineyards

The Corn Turned Blue

July 19th, 2010

Last week I was going to write about drought stress, which we were definitely beginning to see in vineyards. Lack of rainfall and triple digit temperatures can quickly put annual crops like beans peppers and corn in jeopardy. When tomatoes go into a stress mode, blossoms drop off. The leaves of corn turn up–the so-called pineapple stage–then blue then brown. Rain will not revive brown corn. What about grape vines?

Mature vines, five or more years of age, can withstand drought if growing in a water retentive soil, i.e. not sand. Young vines however are susceptible. How do we know whether the young vine is in stress? With vines with sufficient water, shoot tips are actively elongating; and have tendrils reaching out beyond the shoot tip. By contrast, water deficit causes shoot tips to slow and cease elongation, and tendrils to cease elongation; tendril tips do not extend beyond shoot tips with shoots that are slowing or have stopped growth. The orientation of the leaf blade to the sun is perpendicular to sun’s rays with well-watered vines, but increasingly angled away from direct sunlight with inadequate water supply. So we can assess the situation by looking at the vines and indeed the shoots of some vines had stopped elongating.

Substituting irrigation for rainfall is not easy. An enormous amount of water is required, a quantity which is generally not available. Replacing rainfall with irrigation would require over 25,000 gallons per acre per week! There are a number of other things which can be done: avoid pulling leaves, reduce competition from weeds, and mow close to the ground.

Now of course the situation has reversed. At Stargazers, we recorded 4.5 inches of rain from the two storms, Saturday and Tuesday, July 10 & 13. Now we have a new set of problems. We need to take the excess water away from the vines by letting between-row vegetation grow. We had to get a fresh application of fungicide on immediately and have to hedge the vines to keep new growth from shading the fruit zone. When to mow? Well, that depends on the weather.

John Weygandt
Stargazers Vineyard

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