GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2003 show27
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Show #27

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 rootstocks.

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

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Photos and story by Monrovia Nursery Company

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