This week we visit Chateau Elan in Braselton, Georgia. Chateau
Elan is a four star, four diamond luxurious Inn. People
come to experience not only the Inn, but to enjoy the spa,
play golf, tennis but most everyone gravitates to the winery.
There is something magical, something romantic about vineyards
and a winery. Dan Baldwin is a wine maker and in charge
of wine operations at this full production winery.
Dan, years ago, after a lay off in Silicon
Valley found a job at a winery. After much hard work he
moved up the organization. He liked the field and decided
to get a degree in Enology and Viticulture from Cal State
University in Fresno. He graduated and became a wine maker.
About 7,000 years ago the Viticulturists,
or grape growers, of the time found the mother of all grape
vines in the Shiraz area of Persia, current day Iran. Basically
all grapes varieties originated in this part of the world.
Today, through selected breeding and cultivation, there
are about 200 different varieties of European grapevines
that are thought to have developed from this original, mother
of all grapevines, in Persia.
Growing grapes is tough. Climate is the
number one concern. Soil is a small component, it doesn't
have a tremendous impact on the quality of the grapes. More
important is sunshine and heat during the day, then the
cooling effects at night that lead to high quality grapes
needed for the best wine. During the day grapes are making
sugars in the leaves by using the photosynthetic process.
Sugar is exported from the leaves to the grapevine and into
the grapes themselves. Abundant sunshine during the growing
season is necessary. Cool nights are important because the
grapes need to shut down their metabolic activities at night.
During the day they metabolize, build up sugars, pigments,
flavors and aroma molecules. When the sunshine ceases, the
grapes need to cool. At night when production shuts down
they don't use their sugars, aroma and pigment molecules,
they don't break them down or metabolizing them. Warm days
and cool nights are necessary for good grapes and good wine.
Many believe that grapes can only grow
in certain parts of the country. That is a misconception.
Grapes are grown in every state in this country, there are
now wineries in every state. One of the concerns in parts
of the country is high humidity. Dan faces this problem
in the form of Powdery and Downy Mildew. He can spray with
sulfur and fungicides to address these problems.
Most serious gardeners first think about
soil conditions. Grapes like a slightly alkaline soil. When
an area has a PH below 7, lime needs to be added along with
soil amendments. Drainage too is important. Although root
stocks are available that can tolerate some "wet feet,"
generally grapes don't like it too wet.
Rootstock diseases can be a problem. Around
1860 someone imported grapevines from the Southeastern U.S.
to France. Unwittingly these grapevines contained a hitchhiking
bug called Phylloxera and it wiped out almost all grapevines
in Europe from 1860 to 1865. Phylloxera gets into the roots
and strangles the vines. In an attempt at solving the devastating
problem, Viticulturists were sent back to the U.S. to look
at other grape varieties. They tried to graft Cabernets
to Concord varieties. This worked only to a small degree,
every grape had a concord flavor. They tried making hybrids.
They cross pollinated the vines and developed French hybrid
varieties, such as Shambersen. It is a very tough vine,
very resistant to disease. Later viticulturists came from
France, looking at other American grapevines found growing
along riverbeds of Texas, Missouri and Oklahoma. These grapes
grew along riverbeds, they didn't produce a lot of grapes
and they weren't good for making wine or eating because
they were sour, but they had great root stocks and were
resistant to the Phylloxera disease. They grafted the European
grapevines to these rootstocks and that proved to be the
solution. Now worldwide, grapes are planted on American
Almost all grapes are grafted. Dan purchases
them from nurseries grafted and ready to plant.
If you wanted to plant grapes at home
as a hobby or for enjoyment, don't grow them on the ground.
Get them off the ground and into the air. The air flowing
will help prevent some humidity and mildew problems. We
look at a simple bilateral cordon system. It has a trunk
and two cordons (which means arms in french). Along each
arm will be a number of cane spots or spurs. It is ideal
to have about six spurs along each arm. If you have a cane
bigger than your thumb, leave about three buds. With this
size cane it has the vascular development to be able to
push out three new canes the next year. If the cane were
as small as your ring finger two buds would be ideal. If
as small as a pencil, one bud. These are good rules of thumb
for pruning grape vines.
When planting your grape vines, dig a
wide hole, it isn't necessary to add a lot of fertilizer
or amendments. Then implement the cordon system. It is a
wire strung between two posts. The posts are placed about
30 feet apart, the vines placed about 6 feet apart. The
first supporting line can be approximately 3 feet off the
ground. Train the central leader to grow up to it. The first
cane will grow up and become the trunk, you then will have
two new canes that grow out. Train those canes along the
wires. This is all one can hope for during the first year.
During the subsequent 2-3 years don't expect fruit to be
produced. That would put too much strain on the young vine,
it needs to mature before producing fruit. To accomplish
this it is necessary to remove any fruit or flowers at an
early stage. This will enable the vine to have more strength
and put growth into the system. This increases the likelihood
of survival by at least 50%. A small harvest can be attained
in the third year and a full harvest in the forth year.
This process requires patience. In the first couple years
the plant needs to grow along the cordon. In the second
year some of the canes along the wire will have buds and
those buds will push out new canes. At that point taller
wires need to be in place allowing the new canes to grow
up and into that higher wire system. Some use an arbor,
it is similar, the difference, instead of a wire system
there is a surface of wood that the vines are encouraged
to grow on and through. Train the vines to grow on the arbor
just like on the wire system.
A shrub that is adaptable to about every
part of this country is Abelia. It is a graceful, arching
plant. It loves full sun when ample water is available but
will tolerate shade. Abelia will provide white clusters
of flowers throughout the entire summer. It attracts butterflies,
bees and moths.
Abelia Grandifloria tolerates mild climates
as well as very cold climates. Abelia Florabunda flourishes
in warmer environments.
The arching habit is stunning. One of
the worst things one can do is sheer it. Don't take a trimmer
and cut the branches. When reducing the size of the plant,
follow the branches all the way back to the ground and cut
it there. That keeps the foliage near the base and helps
produce a stocky, full looking plant. Abelia has more than
one season of interest. It is evergreen, thus it has green
leaves throughout the year. In the fall after it has stopped
blooming the sepals turn a bronzeish-red. The leaves develop
a reddish tint as well.
Once established Abelias require very
little care. They are a great addition to the low maintenance
garden or in situations where one wants some greenery or
some flowers with very little work.
Dan says there is always something to
do with grapes. After harvest, after the grapes are off
the vine, the plant continues to make sugar by photosynthesis.
The sugars are translocated back into the vine instead of
the now removed grape. It then goes down the arms, into
the trunk, then into the roots. This provides carbohydrates
for their reserves over winter.
After the harvest in the fall the plants
are beat up, they have given their all to produce grapes.
After the grapes come off, the plant will spring back. It
should be a month of so before cold weather hits, this will
allow them to make all the sugars for over wintering. When
the first frost hits many leaves will fall off, others will
senesceas as the winter gets colder. At this point the canes
start to change. In the fall they are pliable and flexible,
when it gets colder they become more woody. At that point
they should be pruned. Pruning the grapevines regulates
production each year. The number of buds left will determine
the number of canes and the number of canes determines the
number of clusters or bunches of grapes the next year.
The "branch" is a cane, on the
cane is a bud, the space between leaves is called internodes.
The buds are hit by sunlight and that determines how fruitful
the buds will be the next year, how far the canes will push
out, how much fruit will grow. If not cut back they will
want to overproduce the next year. If normal production
is 5 tons of grapes per acre, without pruning production
could be 10 tons per acre the next year. Initially that
sounds good but without sufficient leaf area the grapes
won't ripen, the grapes won't be good. The grapes produced
will be low sugar grapes, grapes that aren't completely
ripe. The grape doesn't know how to stop, it doesn't self
regulate until two or three years go by. The question then
becomes how many buds should be left on a cane? The size
of the cane is the determining factor. When the cane is
the size of a pencil, leave only one, at the base. Prune
at the cordon. The thinner the cane, the fewer the buds
because the plant doesn't have the vascular development
to support many canes. If a large bull cane, bigger than
your thumb, leave three buds because it has the vascular
development to push out three new canes and probably one
and a half clusters of grapes per cane.
In the spring Dan fertilizes and if planting
or replanting is needed, he does that. Vines do die in the
vineyard and they must be replaced by putting in new baby
vines. The new vines are little more than a cane grafted
onto a root stock. They will take off and grow in spring.
In the summer as the temperature warms
the flowers emerge on the canes. They look like tiny grapes
at that point, each flower has a little cap, the cap is
called Calyptras. When the average daily temperature reaches
70 degrees fahrenheit the little caps pop off and exposes
the flower so pollination can occur. During the summer the
berries will uptake the sugar and they get bigger. Water
and sugar is translocated from the grape leaves into the
berry clusters. The grapes enlarge and get sweeter and as
time goes by they develop their sugars, the pigments and
all the aroma molecules that make for a nice tasting fruit
and wine. At the end of summer, in August and September,
the harvest begins, the fruit is collected and wine is made.
Georgia this week visits with Cathy Mariani.
Cathy has a wonderful orchard in her backyard. From the
beginning Cathy and her husband envisioned the orchard as
a family place. A place everyone could become engaged in
all aspects from planting to harvesting. It has become that
and more, now it is almost an outside playroom. The whole
family gathers around when it is time to pick apples and
peaches. The children bring friends home from school. They
harvest apples in the fall, take them to the kitchen, boil
them and place them in jars. The family then shares the
bounty with the community - teachers and others. The children's
school has scheduled field trips to the orchard. It has
proven to be a wonderful learning experience for the children
and their friends.
Cathy shows us some of the things from
her garden, all were grown on their trees and plants in
the garden. There are grapes, berries, apples and peaches.
They decided that they wanted these items available year
round. Thus when ripe they harvest and can, making these
goodies available in winter. They find it special to open
a fresh can of peaches in February. Cathy finds that when
given as gifts people are very appreciative. To give someone
a gift that you have grown in your yard and prepared in
your home seems to connect with people on a personal level.
Everyone enjoys something that comes from the home and from
the heart. And it is a very unique gift.
Cathy was gracious and shared many of
her goodies with the film crew. It was meaningful and delicious.
Thank you Cathy.
Dan shows us some younger grape vines.
These vines are in their second year and one can see the
cane has grown up and split off at a bud. There are now
two arms developing from two canes that have pushed out
as buds. It is so small that one wouldn't want fruit to
grow. It needs to get stronger, grow out and put on more
leaves so it can make more sugar. When it does this it will
be strong for the next year.
Wine grapes are small compared to table
grapes. Table grapes are treated with a natural hormone
that causes a bigger berry. As well, wine grapes are sweeter.
After the grapes are grown and harvested
they are taken into the winery in 4 x 4 bins. Each bin will
have about 3/4 ton of grapes inside.
White grapes are put into a press and
the press will squeeze the juice out. The juice is then
put in tanks. Yeast is added for fermentation. Thus for
white wine the only thing added is yeast and the juice itself.
Red grapes are put through a machine that
strips the berries off the stems and then puts the berries
through a set of rollers that crush them. After the berries
are split open they are pumped into a tank with their skins,
pulp, seeds, juice, everything. Seeds and pulp, etc. are
included to get the red color into red wines. Since the
pulp has no color, color must be obtained from the skins.
As the fermentation process occurs and alcohol is produced
the color is extracted from the skins and goes into the
wine. When the wine finishes fermenting, a nice, dry red
wine is ready to go into barrels for aging. The length of
time needed for aging is determined by the amount of tannin
extracted from the seeds. Seeds have a dry astringent, tannin
characteristic. The aging process is all about softening
out those tannins over time. That is why red wines improve
with age. Aging is best done in barrels but it can continue
in bottles over the life of the wine. During this process
the tannins form chains and polymers by linking tannin to
tannin. They become large molecules that can fall out or
be filtered out of the wine. Red wines improve with age
because the tannins are falling out of the wine.
Dr. Rick thanks Dan. Our viewers will
now know how to grow grapes and understand the wine making
process as well.
Link :: Château
Élan Hotels & Resorts
Back to Top