Nov 302015
 
LostOakGene&Jim

Lone Oak Winery Owner – Gene Estes; Winemaker – Jim Evans

Memories Revisited: Lost Oak Winery Tempranillo and Merlot

Wines and memories are the perfect match. It’s been over five years since 2009, but I remember the day like it was yesterday. It was a warm Sunday afternoon and I was in Burleson, Texas, just south of Fort Worth at Gene Estes’s family-run Lost Oak Winery. I was in the barrel room where Gene and I tasted some of his winemaker Jim Evan’s handiwork.

The wines included their soon-to-be-bottled Texas High Plains Tempranillo, rich and red-black in color. Though still not a finished wine, that Tempranillo had appealing color, a smoky aroma and a scent of rich ripe cherries. This tasting was clear evidence that this Tempranillo was destined for high marks, which it later received: gold medals at the Dallas Morning News and San Francisco International Wine Competitions.

The more we tasted that afternoon, the more Gene made his way rack-to-rack through the barrel room. Finally, he thieved another wine just as memorable, a barrel sample of Merlot from Jet Wilmeth’s high plains Diamante Doble Vineyards in Tokio, Texas. As he held up the wine-filled thief, Gene looked my way and said, “Look! This’s inky dark stuff, isn’t it?”

These are good memories of two very well made wines. One of the better things imaginable is, over half a decade later, I’m savoring them again and YOU CAN TOO!

This time it’s the Lost Oak Winery 2014 Texas High Plains Tempranillo, Bingham Family Vineyards, and the Lost Oak Winery 2014 Double Diamond Merlot, again vineyard-designated Jet Wilmeth’s Diamante Doble Vineyards.

Lost Oak Winery 2014 Tempranillo, Texas High Plains, Bingham Family Vineyards

Lost-Oak-Tempranillo-2014This wine is a blend of 83% Bingham Family Vineyards Tempranillo combined with 17% of their Petit Sirah. The grapes were crushed and fermented using a “small-lot”, hand-crafted style in harvest bins for 10 days. The wine was then pressed and aged in American oak for 10 months.

The wine offers aromas of ripe red fruit, mainly black cherry, combined with the leather, toasted oak and vanilla. The aromas turn into magic on the palate where the black cherry explodes and melds with the wine’s exciting and titillating tannic structure.

Gene Estes and winemaker Jim Evans agree that this is one of their best Tempranillos. While still young, the wine’s got a rich bouquet, intense color and a smooth long finish.

Lost Oak Winery 2014 Texas Double Diamond, Texas High Plains, Diamonte Doble Vineyards

Lost-Oak-Merlot-2014For this wine, the Merlot grapes were harvested and transported to Lost Oak Winery where they were topped with 15% Merlot from Bingham Family Vineyards. After crush, the wine was fermented for 10 days on their skins. Delestage (rack and return) was performed daily to aerate the wine, soften astringent tannins and extract and stabilize the wine’s color. The wine was then pressed and aged in French oak for 12 months.

The wine offers dark purple color and a full-bodied, classic new-world Merlot experience with dark cherry, red plum, a smooth, well rounded mouthfeel, and a long finish. According to Gene Estes, “This is perhaps our best Merlot! Right up there with our 2003 Lone Oak and 2007 Double Diamond Merlot. Winemaker Jim Evans and I think it’s a fruit bomb! The grapes in this wine were harvested at exactly the right moment by two of our most reliable growers.”

Gene, you know what? Based on memories of our great barrel room tasting at Lost Oak Winery in 2009 and my recent tasting of these new wines, I agree with your assessment, one-hundred percent.

— — — — —

Lost Oak Winery

2116 FM 731 (also called 2116 John Jones Drive)
Burleson , Texas 76028

For more information, click here.

 Posted by at 7:58 am
Nov 202015
 
NPSOT-Plant-Seed-Swap

NPSOT – Houston Chapter Plant/Seed Swap

Don’t Get Between Me and My Frogfruit

This past Thursday evening, I attended the Native Plant Society of Texas (NPSOT), Houston Chapter meeting held at the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center. The November meeting is avidly awaited for two good reasons. First, it’s a potluck extravaganza and people bring dishes of food and come hungry. Secondly, it’s also the chapter’s annual “Plant/Seed Swap”.

Since joining the society and becoming a Houston Chapter member I’ve learned much about native plants. Its members are good teachers. Most have evolved extensive native Texas gardening knowledge. They’ve studied these native plants and have an encyclopedic memory developed over decades, if not, a lifetime of experience.

While many members are well into their golden years and appear as mild-mannered practitioners, their memories (and passions) are easily invoked. This usually leads to plant discussions encompassing a litany of common names and less familiar and harder to pronounce Latin names; example being, Aromatic aster, Aromatic American aster, Fall aster, Wild blue aster, Shale aster ending with the tongue twisting Latin name Symphyotrichum oblongifolium.

Fall-Aster

Fall Aster – Symphyotrichum oblongifolium

Personally, I’ve been a forty-year Houston gardener. Over these decades, I’ve perhaps killed off a hundred too many plants in my pursuit of natural beauty. But, as a result, I have finally learned what I refer to as the four tenets of Houston gardening success. I now consider them the Houston Holy Four: sun plants, shade plants, wet plants and dry plants that come with the accompanying knowledge of where to plant each in my yard.

Almost two years ago, coinciding with the completion of my new Houston home in the Montrose area, I made the decision that Texas native plants had most of the attributes that would simplify my gardening life. They are tough puppies having over eons mastered Texas weather, or what some people say is, in fact, not weather at all, just extremes.

In my pursuit of a Texas native habitat in my new yard, I recently did battle with the elimination of an extremely invasive exotic (non-native) ground cover in my tree bed. It’s name: Asiatic Jasmine (aka Dwarf Jasmine, Small-Leaf Confederate Jasmine and, of course, in Latin, Trachelospermum asiaticum).

Asiatic-Jasmine

Asiatic Jasmine – Trachelospermum asiaticum

After four days of digging, pulling, scraping and sweating, my tree bed was devoid of this botanical scourge. However, now it was time for replacement and I’ve just wiped the crumps of the NPSOT pot luck off my shirt and I was ready for the “Plant/Seed Swap”.

If you haven’t attended a plant or seed swap or native plant sale, you need to take caution. Usually, it involves a pre-sale/swap inspection of plants and seeds on a series of tables. This is where everyone scopes out what native plants are there and which they JUST HAVE to take home. In my case, my search was for a replacement (and native Texas) ground cover. In our Thursday night event, it appeared that nearly everyone had a keen interest in something on display. So, like everyone else, I had my focus on a particular table and a particular plant.

Finally, at the conclusion of the NPSOT business meeting with our stomachs full of potluck, and the high-sign that the plant/seed swap was now open, these presumably mild-mannered native Texas plant aficionados jumped to their feet to rush the tables. The crush of humanity was on.

I had Frogfruit (aka Texas frogfruit, Turkey tangle frogfruit, even matchweed, and, oh yes, in Latin, Phyla nodiflora), my ground cover replacement, in my sites!

Frogfruit

Frogfruit – Phyla nodiflora

Texas Frogfruit is an excellent ground cover and is evergreen in most years and especially in areas protected from frost. It spreads vigorously. Frogfruit is also a good nectar plant for butterflies (and larval host for the Phaon Crescentspot, Buckeye, and White Peacock butterflies).  It can also be an attractive plant rambling over boulders or the edges of hanging baskets.

IMPORTANT: True to its Texas heritage, Frogfruit also can tolerate drought and flooding (recall a key word for Texas gardening: EXTREMES).

Now… I just hope that nobody gets between me and my Frogfruit or there will be hell to pay. Lookout Frogfruit (and other NPSOT members) here I come!

 Posted by at 8:03 pm
Nov 192015
 

Old-Man-Scary-Cellars-exterior

McHenry’s Wedding Oak Winery Incubator Winery Project Gives Birth: Old Man Scary Cellars

Wedding Oak Winery will launch the first Incubator winery project in San Saba, Texas, with the opening of Old Man Scary Cellars in November 2015. Conceived with new Texas start-up wineries in mind, Wedding Oak Winery owner Mike McHenry patterned this incubator after similar successful winery incubators in Carlton, Oregon and Walla Walla, Washington, Wedding Oak Winery purchased a 1924 historic building in the same block as its San Saba winery, restored and re-purposed the building to house a retail tasting room and winery production facility.

According to Mike McHenry, “Wedding Oak is the landlord for their separate building (built-to-suit) and provides the custom crush for the wines. Old Man Scary Cellars is not renting or leasing space within the existing Wedding Oak Winery facility. Wedding Oak also act as their advisor and mentor until they become experienced and self-sufficient.”

Dr. Gabe Hisel, owner of Old Man Scary Cellars, entered into the incubator relationship with Wedding Oak Winery as a cost effective way to get a new winery open and operational. The on-site production facilities’ capacity will be augmented by the production facilities at Wedding Oak Winery, located just two buildings away. Leasing the bonded space for wine storage, small winery production area, store front retail space and outdoor courtyard gives Old Man Scary Cellars an attractive Hill Country location without the extensive capital expenses of starting a new winery from scratch.

Wedding Oak Winery winemaker, Penny Adams, will oversee the wine production for Old Man Scary Cellars, making wines to the specifications of Dr. Hisel. Wedding Oak Winery provides custom crush services, advises on retail operations and supports the Old Man Scary Cellars, while adding critical mass to the downtown San Saba resurgence with the addition of a second winery retail operation. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 9:17 am
Oct 312015
 
Vinita-TVMunson-Mansion

Vinita – The T.V. Munson Mansion Gardens & Vineyard

T.V. Munson & the Texas Grape Legacy: How Did Things Get This Screwed Up?

Last week, I read Ron Saikowski’s story on the Courier of Montgomery website (Courier article on T.V. Munson) titled “History in the making during Texas Wine Month”. In this article, he discussed perhaps the highest point in Texas’s grape legacy owed to the acknowledged “Grape Man of Texas” – Thomas Volney (T.V.) Munson.

While going through this Courier article, I was shocked to read:

“T.V. Munson showed the French how to save their vineyards by using Mustang grape root stock from Ingleside, Texas as the root base for grafting the vitis vinifera grape vines.”

— — — — —

Texan’s Need to Know: Backgrounder on Munson, Phylloxera and the French Mission to Texas

Munson, while a resident of Denison, Texas, became a renowned grape horticulturalist and highly acclaimed botanist for this work locating, categorizing and hybridizing native grape species. The overriding goal in both Munson’s research and horticultural business was to make Texas grapes a year round cash crop for our local farmers as table grapes, preserves and wine – although Munson reportedly did not drink.

TVMunson2

Thomas Volney (T.V.) Munson of Denison, TX

In this pursuit, Munson is reported to have traveled over 10,000 miles (and perhaps if you believe some accounts….over 50,000 miles) on horseback in Texas noting locations, soil types and taking native grape vine cuttings back to Denison. There he rooted and grew them and studied their characteristics. He also hybridized native Texas grapes with other varieties of native American grapes, and with European (vinifera) wine grapes.

In the mid-1800s, the infestation of the French and European vineyards by Phylloxera, a root louse common in America, caused an agricultural disaster of epic proportions. It has been reported that by the 1870’s from 75 to 90% of the European vineyards were laid fallow from this infestation. After many years of study, it was learned that Phylloxera was actually imported in the soil and roots of American plants sent back to European for research and gardens. They also realized that to survive in the wild, native American grape vines must be resistant to Phylloxera and figured that they might serve as root stock for the European vines (Vitis vinifera) used to make wine.

When alternative attempts at Phylloxera eradication failed, a French delegation was assembled under the leadership of Pierre Viala, professor of viticulture at Montpellier l’Institut National Agronomique, who was already in correspondence with Munson. The mission was sent out to visit grapevine specialists all across the United States with a goal to find a Phylloxera-resistant root stock that could be used in Europe. This goal was critical since most of the grapevine cuttings sent from American up to that point did not thrive in the European soils. The delegation members knew of Munson’s work with native grapes in Texas. So, it was not surprising when this group showed up at his Denison doorstep seeking his assistance.

TVMunsonDeskBook

Munson’s desk at Vinita with copy of his “Foundations” book

— — — — — Continue reading »

 Posted by at 1:10 pm
Oct 192015
 
Wildflower-Garden

       Plant a Texas Native Garden in Your Yard or Community

What You Can Do for Texas Native Plant Week – October 18-24, 2015

Reprinted from October 2015 Hyde Park Newsletter

Native Texas plants in gardens, landscaping and habitats help sustain nature at a time when the “wild and natural” are disappearing. These plants help sustain a healthy ecosystem by supporting a biodiversity of plant and animal life – a balance that nature intended. Around our homes and in our community, getting back to nature brings many benefits for families, the environment and the economy.

Texas Native Plant Week occurs every year during the third full week of October. It was conceived as a way to promote civic interest in preserving our state’s rich biological heritage for future generations through building greater awareness, use and knowledge of native plants in our local communities and schools. This annual event became a reality in 2009 by proclamation of the Texas legislature.

Key points to consider during Texas Native Plant Week are:

  • Native plants are essential to a healthy natural environment that promotes insect diversity (especially our pollinators and butterflies) and sustaining life for native Texas birds and mammals.
  • These plants are actually preferred by native birds and insects, providing food, cover and resting places required for them to flourish in your neighborhood.
  • Native plants are less expense and require lower maintenance than conventional grass and bedding plants based on reduced usage of water, fertilizers, pesticides and their ability to promote deeper and healthier soils.
Monarch-Caterpillar

   Create a buttery garden or Monarch waystation

Being a Houston gardener for over 40 years, planting my yard in Hyde Park (Montrose area) with Texas native plants was a stimulating experience. I learned that there are many Texas native plants that can be easily substituted for conventional bedding flowers, shrubs and trees. I also learned that native plant gardening doesn’t necessarily mean “wild looking”. Through elimination of conventional lawn grass, my water bill was reduced more than 60% and my use of pesticides and garden chemicals is now almost nil. Best of all, I regularly see several kinds of native bees, butterflies and birds because there is something in bloom or going to seed nearly year around.

On the community level, native plant organizations encourage citizens to take time during Texas Native Plant Week to unite with their civic associations and schools to promote educating children about the importance of native grasses, trees and wildflowers and their role with the environment and wildlife. Simple ways to do this are to start a wildflower garden in your yard or tree lawn, in a public space in your community or at a local school. Seeds and plants are available through local native plant sales and seed programs from the Native Plant Society of Texas Houston (NPSOT) Chapter www.npsot.org/wp/houston, Houston Arboretum (www.houstonarboretum.org) and some nurseries.

Wildflower-Display

See the wildflower display at the Houston Arboretum

Information on Texas native plants is readily available. The Native Plant Society of Texas Houston Chapter has an active Facebook page. Other resources include:

There are more than ample reasons to “grow native”, but it is often difficult for individuals, communities and nurseries to get the process of native community gardening started. The NPSOT has recently initiated an effort to alleviate this situation with its Native Landscape Certification Program (NLCP). These classes provide individuals and professionals with the essentials for starting and sustaining native plant gardens and habitats.

Prairie-Grass

Visit Deer Park, Katy Prairie or Sheldon Lake Prairie

NLCP classes teach best practices for native plant landscape and habitat introduction and preservation using a combination of classroom instruction and outside fieldwork at a local natural area. Sessions include instruction in native plant identification (including trees, shrubs, flowers and grasses), the uses and selection of native plants in landscaping, and identification of common exotic/invasive plant species important to control. While available in other parts of Texas currently, the Houston Chapter NPSOT will bring this program to Houston starting Spring 2016.

Sunflower

Visit a native plant nursery &  just peruse, enjoy or buy something

 Posted by at 10:43 am
Oct 062015
 

Colliding-Galaxies

When Two Galaxies Collide: Texas Beer is Aged In Texas Red Wine Barrels

New Braunfels Brewing Company – The Farmhouse Program

According to a recent news release, “Sangre de Shiva is the best expression of the soul of what New Braunfels Brewing Company stands for. Not quite a wine, not exclusively a beer, Sangre de Shiva is a strange and new flavor experience that is constantly evolving.”

When I read this, my mind went back to one of my astronomy classes (thank goodness for college electives). The professor was showing a series of slides of planets, star clusters and galaxies. The one this announcement brought to my mind was the slide he put up showing the collision of two galaxies with their tentacle-like arms entwined drawing each galaxy evermore closely together while also spewing out galactic material in random directions. In this case, it was the galaxy of Texas beer on a collision course with the galaxy of Texas wine. The only questions are: Will this lead to the formation of a black hole or will it be a spectacular supernova.  It likely too soon to tell. Either way, for those that enjoy new taste sensations of wine and/or beer, this creation sounds very interesting, indeed.

Each release from New Braunfels Brewing Company is a different blend of a very wet Texas red wine barrel and our Black Weizenbock, Shiva’s Tears. Age depends on the blend, but will be roughly 9-12 months. Much like a great wine from vintage to vintage, every release expresses slight variations.Their first example, Blend1, used barrels that previously held a red-blend, Enchanté, from William Chris Vineyards in Hye, TX and Blend2 used TX Syrah barrels, also from William Chris Vineyards. The plans going forward are for Blend3 (the current release). Blend3 used Comal County Black Spanish barrels from their neighbors at Dry Comal Creek Vineyards. Others include:

  • Blend4, due out in December, has been sitting in William Chris Syrah barrels.
  • Blend5 is aging in Dry Comal Creek Malbec barrels.
  • Blend6 is very wet Texas Sangiovese from Hilmy Cellars near Stonewall, TX.
  • Blend7 will be Texas Merlot from William Chris Vineyards and will be our biggest release of Sangre ever.
  • They are currently looking for the right barrels for Blend 8.

NewBraunfels-Barrels

Continue reading »

 Posted by at 10:56 am
Oct 052015
 

Texas-wine-class

Wine Class – Exciting Texas Wines: Know How & Where to Find Them

by James King, Texas Wine School

I am so happy to have the foremost independent Wine Expert on Texas Wines and Wineries, Dr. Russ Kane to be teaching this class.

I am sure the lucky 14 who get to attend this class will be blown away by the take away knowledge that Dr Kane will impart and make you want to go and tell everyone about Texas Wines!! Also for good luck he is throwing in autographed copies of his book, Texas Hill Country Wineries, for free as part of the class, as well!

The class will be held: October 21, 2015 from 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Cost: $60.00, includes tasting of eight Texas wines, copy of Dr. Kane’s  new book, Texas Hill Country Wineries (Texas wine photo history and hill country trail guide)

Venue : The Texas Wine School

Address : 2437 Bartlett Street, Houston, TX, 77098 United States

Enroll by phone: 713 882 8773; email:information@thetexaswineschool.com

Website: www.thetexaswineschool.com

Course Overview

The class presentation will review the major touch points in the development of the modern Texas wine industry, starting with its geology, weather, wine regions, and early linkage with with European wine culture. The lecture will highlight the early attempts to clone Bordeaux, Burgundy and California’s Napa Valley in Texas and their success with Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. However, within 20 years, Texas vigerons found grape varieties native to Mediterranean climes that more closely resembled that of Texas.

During the presentation, Dr. Kane will lead a guided tasting including wines and blends selected from Texas-grown Viognier, Roussanne, Vermentino and Trebbiano (for white wines) and Tempranillo, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Sangiovese, Dolcetto, and Aglianico (for its reds), with a few surprises in the mix, too.  These wines have one thing in common: Their grapes share a love of Texas’s warm weather, sunny skies and sandy limestone-encrusted soils.The modern Texas wine experience is a relatively new phenomenon having evolved from a “restart” of the Texas wine industry in the mid-1970s. At this time, following the famous “Judgement of Paris”, the spirit of optimism caused many states to explore growing grapes and making wine.

Texas-winery

Background

Creating a respectable new wine region is no small task; California has over a hundred years of experience and Europe has had centuries to do so. It requires learning about the adaptability of grapevines to new locales, with different soil and weather conditions, while also expanding knowledge of new viticultural practices to handle the plethora of local diseases and disorders that can afflict grapevines. Luckily, Texas has a long farming legacy, a deep-seeded pioneering spirit, and tradition of agricultural grit and determination.

In the 1970-80s, the Texas winegrowing renaissance focused on efforts to use the same grape varieties common in France and California – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. With the exception of some noteworthy successes, it would take Texas another 20 years to ultimately realize that it wasn’t Napa or Bordeaux, and sure as heck was not Burgundy.

Takeaways

Attendees will receive a autographed copy of Dr. Kane’s new book – The Texas Hill Country Wineries – a Texas photographic wine history and hill country wine trail guide. This book documents the elements of Texas’ early wine cultures from Spain, Italy, France and Germany and is your also guide to the Texas wine experience.

Dr. Kane will also highlight how to find quality Texas wines and especially focus on those that are available in the Houston marketplace.

Author: 

Dr. Russell Kane who with his wife Delia shares his time between Houston and the Texas hill country has been a technical writer and researcher for over 40 years. He is also a wine blogger (www.VintageTexas.com) and book author whose work spans decades and has earned him awards in both technical and wine communities. His bestselling Texas wine book, The Wineslinger Chronicles: Texas on the Vine, provided him insights and stories from the pioneers of Texas wine that shed light on the modern Texas hill country wine experience.

Suggested Eight Wines:

Pedernales Viognier

McPherson Reserve Roussanne

Becker Vineyards Rose’ Mourvèdre

Llano Estacado Tempranillo

Flat Creek Estate SuperTexan

Duchman Family Winery Aglianico

Haak Vineyards Madeira Blanc Du Bois

Messina Hof Papa Paulo Port

Lady-with-wine

 

 Posted by at 7:56 pm
Sep 302015
 

2014-Iron-Sommelier

Tomorrow’s the Night in Houston: The Periwinkle Foundation Hosts Houston’s Premier Sommelier Competition and Wine Tasting

Iron Sommelier Presented by AutoSol® 

(Photos presented are from 2014 Iron Sommelier event)

WHAT: Houston’s finest sommeliers will be put to the test for the title of Iron Sommelier in the city’s premier wine competition and fundraiser benefiting The Periwinkle Foundation. Chairmen Sean Beck and John Clutterbuck invite guests to an evening showcasing the expertise of 14 sommeliers while guests mingle and taste hand-selected wines that showcase a theme selected by the sommelier. Each competitor will be rated on wine choice, presentation, creativity and knowledge of their wine selections.

2014-Iron-Sommelier-Presentation

DETAILS: On hand will be Jane-Paige B. D’Huyvetter – B&B Butchers & Restaurant; Rob Brandani – Brandani’s Restaurant & Wine Bar; Lindsay Thomas – Camerata at Paulie’s; Freddy Opperman – Carrabba’s Kirby; Nathan Smith – Dolce Vita; Sam Governale – Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar; Evan Turner – Helen Greek Food and Wine; Brittany Brown – The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa; Taylor Mundy – Hunky Dory & Bernadine’s (Treadsack Restaurant Group); Samantha Porter – Oporto Fooding House, Oporto Wine Cafe, and Queen Vic Pub & Kitchen; James Watkins – Pappas Bros. Steakhouse; Whitney Seng – River Oaks Country Club; Angie Chang – Sonoma Wine Bar & Restaurant; and Adele Corrigan – 13 Celsius Wine Bar

2014-Iron-Sommelier-Awards

MORE DETAILS: An Auction, Wine Pull, Iron Sommelier Wine Case and Making A Mark® Children’s Art Sale will round out the evening of vino, entertainment and food. A special thank you to Periwinkle supporters and The Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa.

WHERE: Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa, 111 North Post Oak Lane, Houston, TX 77024

WHEN: Iron Sommelier 2015 Presented by AutoSol® – October 1, 2015 at 6 p.m.

TICKETS: $150 ($175 day of event) for individual tickets  Check for availability or confirm at: www.ironsommelier.org

Periwinkle

 Posted by at 10:38 am
Sep 042015
 
Bee-on-Grape-FLower

Pollinator on Grape Flowers – Not needed, is different from not welcome.

Standing at the Crossroads (Part III – What you can do) – Adaptive Variety Selection and the Uncertain Role of Imidacloprids in the future of Southern Grape Culture

By: R.L. Winters, Fairhaven Vineyards

Master Horticulturist/Ampelographer Fairhaven American Hybrid Research Foundation

[VT – Please welcome back VintageTexas guest blogger R.L. Winters in this third part of his three part blog on the impact of the use of imidacloprid pesticides our grape culture in Texas and the American Southland. Click here to read Part I – The MYSTERY or click here to read Part II – NO WAY HOME.

— — — — —

WHAT YOU CAN DO!

Grapes are regularly visited by three types of pollinators:

  • Solitary bees
  • Honey bees, and
  • Several species from the order Diptera (flies).

It is quite correct that most grape flowers are self-pollenating, a characteristic that is considered desirable in grape breeding in the development of cultivars for production for the last 3000 years. All of the prominent varietals are self-pollenating and are adequately fertilized by wind action and mechanical dispersal of pollen.

The roll that pollinators play is largely in facilitating the distribution of pollen and assuring better and more uniform pollination. Certain varieties of American hybrids are dependent on the assistance offered by these diligent visitors to the vineyard and are greatly enhanced by this boost.

Grape vines produce an abundance of both pollen and nectar. And, in understanding the behavior of pollinators, one must comprehend that they are opportunistic foragers. That is, they don’t visit any specific flowering plant with some intrinsic understanding of whether or not the species actually requires their assistance to produce fruit, they simply go about collecting pollen and consuming nectar. It’s what they do.

Don’t be fooled by the many myopic comments that are posted to various grower sites that state that “pollinators aren’t required for grapes”, so therefore, pollinators are to be generally disregarded. The fact remains that they are an integral part of the annual cycle in the vineyard and have a vital (ancient) role in all aspects of grapevine ecology, including the preservation and hybridization of native grape species in the various ecotomes across the Western Hemisphere.

This issue, eventually, is reduced to its common denominator…

Pierces Disease, and how to combat its devastating effects. Imidacloprid has offered a workable, even if somewhat ungainly alternative to watching vines shrivel up and die.

Pierces-Disease-Leaf

 

THE REAL ISSUE IS A MATTER OF SELECTION – ENTER T.V. MUNSON

As far back as the post civil war era, Thomas V. Munson observed that while European grapes died by the thousands, the native grapes in the New World were largely unaffected by the rigors of the Texas climate, and at the same time were immune to a mysterious disease that was then called “Grape Vine Decline” (Pierce’s Disease).

TVMunson

T.V. Munson – The Grape Man of Texas

Munson narrowed his focus on crossing inside this group of native vines to improve the varieties and enhance the juice quality. In this astounding group of hybrids, he handed us many selections that demonstrate nearly complete tolerance of Pierces, while still maintaining extraordinary juice qualities. By simple observation, he had crossed the intellectual rubicon that has continued to escape modern viticulture in the Pierces prone areas, in its headlong plunge to be something it may have never been meant to be.

At the core of the issue is varietal selection, and the misguided belief that, in order to compete, Texas must produce grapes and wine that meet the lofty standards set by the California wine business. Somehow they can’t be (truly) Texan, but rather they must be Texaforinan!

To a degree, some Texas vineyards have approached that level of quality. But most of those production areas are located well outside of the “Pierces Belt” (east of I-35 and just above or south of I-10) and are graced with dryer, generally cooler conditions than the rest of the state. Which leaves the balance of the growers (majority of the state and the rest of the south) struggling with cultivars that will never fully succeed in their growing areas, and present nothing short of a maintenance nightmare.

Munson-Grapes

Munson Grape Varieties – Many are Pierce’s disease resistant.

The various appellations in Europe don’t seem to have much trouble letting better adapted varieties represent the culture, history and dominant production of their respective regions. Maybe it has somehow escaped me, but I just haven’t noticed any hand wringing by the folks in the Ribera del Duero wine region of Spain because they can’t grow Cabernet just like the growers of Bordeaux! You think they’ve said…

“Darn that Tempranillo….if we just could grow Cabernet we would be just as good as those guys!”

In our society, noted for its abbreviated historical knowledge (social ADA), its little wonder that few growers are aware that American varieties such as Lomanto, Extra, and Hussman were once the prize red wine grapes of the South in the years leading up to the Volstead Act. With the death of Thomas Munson, the wealth of knowledge, and the source for the vines disappeared. A legacy forgotten, placed on the dusty shelves of history.

We have set unrealistic standards for grape culture that has seen a million year old bacteria outwit us at every turn (they aren’t very smart…which makes us seem even dumber).

Rather than accepting that that American Hybrids may offer an answer to the problem of grape culture for most of the south, and afford us a way toward a unique regional group of cultivars, we have, instead, chosen a path to chemical oblivion and are taking the pollinators with it.

We have, unwittingly, become part of a process that undermines the universal basis of food production through the use of imidacloprids, in the name of forcing poorly adapted, physiologically deficient varieties (Vinifera) into production, we have lost our sense of reason.

The-Ugly

The Bad and the Ugly – Homeowner neonicotinoid products

WHAT YOU CAN DO – 10 STEPS

  1. Terminate the use of the nitro-group form of imidacloprid and switch to the less toxic cyano-group. These newer, safer (for bees) form of imidacloprid is sold under commercial names such as Assail, and Tristar
  2. Mitigate imidacloprid contamination of the soil and ground water by switching to foliar application only.
  3. Reduce cross contamination of native wild flowers by eliminating flowering weed growth in the vineyard
  4. Avoid co-mixing imidacloprid with other insecticides until current research clarifies the effects.
  5. IMPORTANT: Do not apply products while pollinators are present. Allow sufficient time prior to daylight exposure for spray material volatilization to complete and spray drift to settle.
  6. IMPORTANT: Plan for a future where imidacloprid is either removed from the market or becomes highly restricted by developing alternative spray routines.
  7. Modify existing vineyard programs to increase Sharpshooter monitoring with the aim of maintaining control by contact application of non-neonicotinoid products.
  8. Plant adapted grape varieties that are either tolerant or resistant to Pierces Disease.
  9. Lobby your congressman to immediately force the EPA to suspend label approval for homeowner use of neonicotinoid products.
  10. Lobby your congressman to immediately force the EPA to suspend label approval for the use of all nitro-group neonicotinoid products.

Written by;

R.L. Winters

Master Horticulturist/Ampelographer

Fairhaven American Research Foundation

 

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