Heron HillBlog

Meet our bloggers and find out what's going on at Heron Hill Winery and our other two tasting rooms on Seneca and Canandaigua Lakes! Staff members are writing about the vineyards, what's happening in the cellar, fun events, wine pairings, new releases and more.

Bernard Cannac
 
June 8, 2010 | Bernard Cannac

Planting the new vineyard in front of the winery

By Bernard Cannac, Winemaker

This spring has been quite interesting so far: the latest spring frost was in mid-May, and from there the weather has been quite hot and humid.

Two weeks ago, we planted over seven acres of vines. The new planting took place mainly in front of the winery. We planted about five acres of Riesling including different clones. The diversity of the clones will bring more complexity to the wines in the future. We also planted about one acre of Muscat and one acre of Vidal Blanc, hopefully to make Icewines and Late Harvests, depending on the weather conditions.

Last fall we took some soil samples to get a soil analysis and added some lime, which was worked into the soil. In the spring, we added some natural fertilizers, which was also worked into the soil. It created a flat and smooth layer of soil for the laser planter.

 

We had a team of professionals come with a laser planter to make sure that the rows were at the right spacing and that the vines were planted evenly. This equipment belongs to the Hosmer Family and their partner. On the video, you can see how the planter operates. The team first makes a survey of the field, then puts markers on the field. It looks like lines of little flags with different colors. A laser beam then goes between two tripods and the photocell on the planter runs along the beam. The tractor driver has to keep the planter in line the whole time, looking at three lights: green means right in line, orange means slightly off line but acceptable and red means that the planter lost the beam. The team makes it look easy, but it takes a lot of skills to keep the ensemble in perfect alignment with an invisible laser beam. As you can see on the video, two persons feed the machine with plants, and Zac, our Vineyard Manager was walking behind the procession to make sure no vine was missing. We took turns for three days, walking in a dust cloud under the blazing sun. I have the sunburn to remind me about that weekend. It was Memorial Day weekend, and it was memorable.

For us, it has been a lot of work to get the soil ready for the planting, and now there will be a lot of work ahead of us: each vine has to have a pencil rod, so the young shoots can be lifted off the ground, we have to put the posts in the ground, then run at least one wire this season to clip the pencil rods on this lower wire.

So far the weather has been giving us enough rain, but we might have to water the plants individually in the next few days, if it doesn’t rain.

But it is a very exciting time for us, because all this work is for the foundation of a vineyard that will be there for a few decades. Once a vineyard is planted, it is very hard to change its characteristics. So we hope we did the right things and made the right decisions, because this vineyard is here to stay. It is up to us now to take good care of it, so we can get the best grapes it can produce, so we can make the best wines, for the delight of all of us.

Even though we have been busy at the vineyard, Brian has managed to get most of the wines ready for bottling. We actually bottled the 2007 Heron Hill Cabernet Franc last week. The wine is recovering from the bottling (bottle shock). It should be released in a couple of weeks. It is a solid wine, with a lot of fresh berry on the nose. It has a big body and will age beautifully. We also blended a Reserve Cabernet Franc, which will be bottled sometime in the summer.

In spring and summer, we always have something to do, inside or outside! Santé!

John Ingle
 
April 8, 2010 | John Ingle

8,000 vines to be planted this spring

By John Ingle, Owner/Grapegrower

Here I go, I’m doing it again – somebody stop me. For almost forty years I’ve had a passion to plant things, especially grapevines. It was 1971 when I first noticed this proclivity. My wife, Joey, and I were recent college grads and were picking up a few bucks helping our neighbor harvest his grapes. We fell in love with the whole experience and cleared some twenty acres of land in preparation to plant grapevines. It was like jumping out of a window without looking. We weren’t farmers and the learning curve was steep. Since then we’ve ripped out vineyards and replanted them – over and over. We’ve also had large gardens every year since our 1971 start. I just love to plant, love to grow, love to harvest. So, this year we are planning a new plantation of vines at Heron Hill on Keuka Lake.

I’ve had some of the oldest vines in the East planted in 1968 but old age and bad weather led to the demise of some 7-8 acres. The last two years we’ve been plowing and preparing the soil and this May in will go over 8,000 vines. The project will include Riesling, Muscat and Vidal varieties in several different clones. There also will be two acres, one each of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon at our Canandaigua Vineyard. It will be a big job but we’re very excited about the wines that will be produced at Heron Hill. At least this time I have some 40 years of farming experience to help me with my “growing” pains!
 

John Ingle
 
February 3, 2010 | John Ingle

My 38th year in a row pruning grapevines

By John Ingle, Owner/Grapegrower

I could blog about the assorted sources of stress in the “idyllic” life of a winery owner. Or I could rant about the hassles, hurdles and roadblocks encountered in dealing with government, laws and politics when trying to provide alcohol to the masses. Instead I’m returning to my roots and talking about grapevines.

I love being in the vineyard, it’s always different and always the same. There is a cyclical process that occurs over a year’s time and for grapevines, it’s call a “vintage”. Each vintage is different with the type of weather and growing season Mother Nature deals and it’s the same in that the recurring tasks and procedures required to yield the best grapes are quite similar each year.

It is now late January and for the 38th year in a row, I am in the vineyard pruning grapevines. People ask what do you do in the winter as a winery owner? Go to Vegas? Au Contraire, it’s the balmy breezes of negative digit wind chill readings that greet me each morning or I stand bundled up like an Eskimo to whack away at some 150+ grapevines a day.

Each year a vine will produce long canes, 2 to 6 feet, with buds or internodes along each cane, up to 200 buds per vine. If these canes aren’t cut back, the vine will over produce and shut down. The 150 buds must be cut back to 20-50 buds to “balance” the vine’s leaf surface with the crop load. You can get a bigger than normal crop one year but you probably won’t the next year.

Pruning 1 acre, about 600+ vines a week means I have twenty weeks to hand prune my vines myself, take out weekends, holidays, white outs or freezing weather and I’m busy from December 1st to April 1st. I’m tired just thinking about it. But I do love it, each vine, creating the “balance”. I feel like an artist.

I recently answered some questions from Lenn Thompson of the New York Cork Report, a blog devoted to New York Wines. Here’s a link to his online article: Q&A with John Ingle, Owner of Heron Hill Winery. 

Bernard Cannac
 
December 9, 2009 | Bernard Cannac

Starting out at Heron Hill as the new Winemaker

By Bernard Cannac, Winemaker

The 2009 harvest has been “interesting” for me, to say the least. I started it on Long Island, but continued and finished it in the Finger Lakes. It is easier to start a new job at a winery at a more quiet time, but I was up for the challenge.

The 2009 vintage has been full of challenges on its own: the weather hasn’t been cooperating all season long, too much rain in the spring, not enough heat and sun in the summer, an early frost... But nature doing things well, the fact of having rain during flowering induced a smaller than expected crop, which in turn was able to reach ripeness precisely because it was a small crop given the circumstances.

So all in all, I am very happy with the quality of the 2009 wines at Heron Hill Winery. The fact that it was a smaller harvest made it even easier for me to adjust to my new environment, and all my co-workers made it even easier. A big thank you to all the employees at Heron Hill, from production to retail and office, for welcoming me into the clan. I also feel honored by the trust owner John Ingle has put in me. We tasted the 2009 wines last week, and John was pleased by the results: it is always gratifying for me to see people enjoy the wines we have crafted in the cellar.

Now that the last whites are gently finishing fermenting, and the reds are waiting to get into barrels, I can take some time to discover the area. I have to say, my wife and I love Hammondsport. The village is only a couple of miles from the winery. We love to walk around the square and do some shopping, or just sit on a bench and enjoy the ambiance. It is an ideal place for a getaway weekend, and I am fortunate that it is where I live now, just a few steps away from Keuka Lake. What can I say? I love it here and I love the snow! Some of my co-workers think I am nuts…
 

John Ingle
 
December 2, 2009 | John Ingle

The root cellar and freezers are ready for winter

By John Ingle, Owner/Grapegrower

The end of the harvest season is a time of mixed emotions. There is the feeling of satisfaction and completeness as another vintage comes full cycle and all the work – pruning, tying, cultivating, picking, etc. yields the bounty of a successful harvest. There is the apprehension as to how the wine will turn out. Will the Rieslings and Chardonnays be crisp and bright, will the Pinot Noirs and Cabernets be rich and bold, will the dessert wines be tantalizing? As the baton is passed from grower to winemaker, there is a bond and a trust that is renewed and cemented every year.
Along with the completion of the vineyard harvest, there is also the grand finale of the garden growing season. The freezer is full of bags of peas, spinach, beans and all kinds of berry fruits. The root cellar is loaded up with potatoes, carrots, parsnips, cabbages, onions and brussels sprouts. The little freezer has sweet cider and grape juice, frozen so that it will be as fresh and delicious all winter as it was the day it was pressed. It all adds up to a lot of work that has been accomplished and the prospect of a long, cold winter enjoying the fruits and bounties of our labor. The cycle of life: plan-work-produce-enjoy-plan again.

John Ingle
 
September 30, 2009 | John Ingle

Ingle Vineyard Harvest Update

By John Ingle, Winery Owner

Fall is my favorite season. I love the peace of winter, the promise of spring, the activity of summer, but the bounty of the harvest is what makes Autumn so rewarding. When you throw in the beautiful colors, the crisp air and all the food from the garden and it’s a soul-satisfying time of year. Right now we’re eating sweet, fragrant melons, plum cabbages, nutty winter squash, apples and seedless grapes.

All the planning last winter, the planting last spring, the hoeing and mulching this summer pays off in fruits and vegetables to freeze, store and eat fresh. Going into October we’re focused on the harvest in the vineyard as well. Slowly, day-by-day, the brix (sugar level) increases and we taste the berries for signs of maturation. It’s a waiting game, greatly influenced by Mother Nature, requiring patience and a positive attitude.

Right now it appears that Pinot Noir will be picked first – they look clean and ripe but need another week. The bees like Pinot Noir and cause more damage than one would imagine. Next will be Chardonnay, already turning gold and plump – a tougher grape that can take some rain or cold if need be. Later in the season, the Cabernet Franc which is very slow to turn blue and ripen this year will be picked and finally our beloved Riesling. It will probably be November before the Riesling is ready to go. We also have plans to make Icewine so this will be a long, busy, patient fall.

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