Ryan Collins
 
May 6, 2016 | Ryan Collins

The effects of water on tannin levels in grape development - Part four: How does this help us understand dry farmed sites?

In February I had the pleasure of speaking at the Oregon Wine Industry Symposium on a panel talking about grape and wine tannins. Anna Matzinger, Steve Price and I wanted to clarify what tannins are, how their levels in wine affect texture and structure of the wine, where tannins come from, the role of soil moisture on grape tannin levels and how harvest date affects quality of tannins.

I was tasked with talking about the relationship between soil water status and grape tannin levels. It was a great opportunity to improve my understanding of the relationship, and helped me come to terms with the difference between dry farming here in the Willamette Valley and the irrigated vineyards in Southern Oregon. On dry farmed sites factors like soil type, depth and texture, along with the seasonal rainfall have a profound effect on tannin level. In vineyards where there isn’t enough soil moisture to sustain the vines for the entire season, supplementary irrigation is needed. In those vineyards you have more control over the tannin levels of the grapes. To understand this topic and prep for my panel discussion, I studied three key disciplines: 1) soil science; 2) plant physiology; and 3) irrigation management.

Before I get into this I will say that I think the Internet is great for researching topics but I really like books.

PART FOUR: HOW DOES THIS HELP US UNDERSTAND DRY FARMED SITES?

Now that you understand how soil science, plant physiology & irrigation affect grape growing, how will this help us understand dry farmed sites?

  1. Sites with deep soils and high PAW, like those on the valley floor, never have enough stress to restrict shoot growth or berry size. They end up producing huge canopies with high amounts of shading and large berries that lack concentration of phenolic compounds.
  2. In years where we have low summer rainfall and the shoot tips stop growing before veraison we can confidently predict that the tannin and anthocyanin levels will be higher than average. Subsequent wine quality will also be higher than average.
  3. When winemakers talk about the differences in tannin structure between marine sedimentary soils and volcanic soils this could be explained more by the soil tension during the season than the mineral content of the soils.
  4. Site selection trumps winemaking every time. You can’t make great wine from deep fertile soils. 

 

 

Time Posted: May 6, 2016 at 3:15 PM
Ryan Collins
 
April 22, 2016 | Ryan Collins

The effects of water on tannin levels in grape development - Part three: Irrigation

In February I had the pleasure of speaking at the Oregon Wine Industry Symposium on a panel talking about grape and wine tannins. Anna Matzinger, Steve Price and I wanted to clarify what tannins are, how their levels in wine affect texture and structure of the wine, where tannins come from, the role of soil moisture on grape tannin levels and how harvest date affects quality of tannins.

I was tasked with talking about the relationship between soil water status and grape tannin levels. It was a great opportunity to improve my understanding of the relationship, and helped me come to terms with the difference between dry farming here in the Willamette Valley and the irrigated vineyards in Southern Oregon. On dry farmed sites factors like soil type, depth and texture, along with the seasonal rainfall have a profound effect on tannin level. In vineyards where there isn’t enough soil moisture to sustain the vines for the entire season, supplementary irrigation is needed. In those vineyards you have more control over the tannin levels of the grapes. To understand this topic and prep for my panel discussion, I studied three key disciplines: 1) soil science; 2) plant physiology; and 3) irrigation management.

Before I get into this I will say that I think the Internet is great for researching topics but I really like books.

PART THREE: IRRIGATION

By controlling the water applied to plants through irrigation you can study its effects on the growth of the vines, yield and also the fruit chemistry. In dry farmed situations it’s very hard to control the water therefore it is harder to study the effects of water on the vines and fruit.

There have been a lot of studies on irrigation management all over the world and the effects of varying irrigation levels at different points throughout the season. What researchers have found is that by applying less water than the vines are losing to ET between fruit set and veraison, you can control the vine growth and vigor, increase the exposure of the fruit and reduce the berry size. All of these factors help to increase the concentration of tannins and other phenolic compounds in the grapes, desirable in red grapes but less desirable in white grapes.

This understanding has led to wide spread adoption of the irrigation practice called Regulated Deficit Irrigation (RDI) and it is used to improve the quality of red wine grapes. To learn more about RDI visit this site: http://cru.cahe.wsu.edu/CEPublications/EM061E/EM061E.pdf.

 

Time Posted: Apr 22, 2016 at 3:26 PM
Ryan Collins
 
April 15, 2016 | Ryan Collins

The effects of water on tannin levels in grape development - Part two: Plant physiology

In February I had the pleasure of speaking at the Oregon Wine Industry Symposium on a panel talking about grape and wine tannins. Anna Matzinger, Steve Price and I wanted to clarify what tannins are, how their levels in wine affect texture and structure of the wine, where tannins come from, the role of soil moisture on grape tannin levels and how harvest date affects quality of tannins.

I was tasked with talking about the relationship between soil water status and grape tannin levels. It was a great opportunity to improve my understanding of the relationship, and helped me come to terms with the difference between dry farming here in the Willamette Valley and the irrigated vineyards in Southern Oregon. On dry farmed sites factors like soil type, depth and texture, along with the seasonal rainfall have a profound effect on tannin level. In vineyards where there isn’t enough soil moisture to sustain the vines for the entire season, supplementary irrigation is needed. In those vineyards you have more control over the tannin levels of the grapes. To understand this topic and prep for my panel discussion, I studied three key disciplines: 1) soil science; 2) plant physiology; and 3) irrigation management.

Before I get into this I will say that I think the Internet is great for researching topics but I really like books.

PART TWO: PLANT PHYSIOLOGY

No one has written a better book on grapevine anatomy and physiology than Markus Keller: The Science of Grapevines, 2010. This was my go to resource for trying to understand how the plant responds to water.

Plants uptake water though their roots via osmosis. It is transported up the xylem to the leaves and out through the stomata. The negative pressure (tension) in the stomata pulls the water from the roots to the leaves. The tension in the leaves has to be greater that the tension in the xylem and the soil to effectively move the water. Therefore the tension in the soil affects the tension in the plant.

An increase in soil tension due to evaporation and transpiration (evapotranspiration or ET) causes a higher increase in xylem tension which, in turn, slows shoot growth and can stop shoot growth all together.

The drying of the soil also causes abscisic acid to be produced (ABA) in the roots. ABA is then transported around the plant where it has many effects.

  1. ABA helps regulate stomatal conductance. An increase in ABA closes the stomata so the plant loses less water.
  2. ABA works against Auxins which stimulate cell elongation and apical dominance. ABA production, like xylem tension helps to slow and stop shoot growth.

Time Posted: Apr 15, 2016 at 2:25 AM
Ryan Collins
 
March 25, 2016 | Ryan Collins

The effects of water on tannin levels in grape development - Part one: Soil science

Last month I had the pleasure of speaking at the Oregon Wine Industry Symposium on a panel talking about grape and wine tannins. Anna Matzinger, Steve Price and I wanted to clarify what tannins are, how their levels in wine affect texture and structure of the wine, where tannins come from, the role of soil moisture on grape tannin levels and how harvest date affects quality of tannins.

Anna Matzinger, Matzinger Davies Wine Company, opened the discussion with a tasting of four Pinot Noir wines from 2015 with tannin levels varying from 250-700mg/L. The wines really highlighted what increasing tannin levels in wine does to the structure and texture of a wine. Anna has a great perspective on wine tannins for she’s been making wine the Willamette Valley for over 15 years now.

Steve Price, S Price Consulting and ETS labs, is a wealth of knowledge on tannins and has spent the last 25 years of his life dedicated to improving the industries understanding of grape and wine tannin. Steve talked about the importance of time to develop tannins and the relationship between catechins and tannins.

I was tasked with talking about the relationship between soil water status and grape tannin levels. It was a great opportunity to improve my understanding of the relationship, and helped me come to terms with the difference between dry farming here in the Willamette Valley and the irrigated vineyards in Southern Oregon. On dry farmed sites factors like soil type, depth and texture, along with the seasonal rainfall have a profound effect on tannin level. In vineyards where there isn’t enough soil moisture to sustain the vines for the entire season, supplementary irrigation is needed. In those vineyards you have more control over the tannin levels of the grapes. To understand this topic and prep for my panel discussion, I studied three key disciplines: 1) soil science; 2) plant physiology; and 3) irrigation management.

Before I get into this I will say that I think the Internet is great for researching topics but I really like books.

 

PART ONE: SOIL SCIENCE
 

When looking at soil science and viticulture I always reach for my trusty book by Phil Nicholas, Soil, Irrigation and Nutrition (2004). What I learnt was: soils hold water but not all the water is available to the plants because some of it is held to tightly to the soil particles. What’s available to the plants is called Plant Available Water (PAW) and it is influenced by the depth of the soil (or to limiting layer) and by the texture.

  • Depth to limiting layer is really easy to understand - as the soil gets deeper the quantity of PAW increases; the shallower the soil the less PAW.
  • Texture is defined by the percentage of Sand, Silt and Clay. The texture affects the PAW but it also affects how the water is released from the soil. Below is a soil water release curve for a clay soil, a sand soil and a loam soil. Note how the tension changes as the soil water content decreases for the different soils.  This tension directly affects the plant in a number of ways, particularly how it affects the plant at a certain time point that can change the level of tannins and other phenolic compounds. Soil tension can be measured using tensiometers at various levels in the soil.

 

Time Posted: Mar 25, 2016 at 12:15 PM
Ryan Collins
 
January 26, 2015 | Ryan Collins

How to celebrate Australia Day like an Aussie

Australia Day marks the arrival of Britain's First Fleet to Australia in 1788. Follow this 14-step guide to celebrate Australia Day like an Aussie:

  1. Sleep in.
  2. Put the beer on ice.

  3. Go for a swim.
  4. Turn on the radio to Triple J. Listen to the Hottest 100.
  5. Crack a cold beer.
  6. Kick the footie around.


     
  7. Turn on the BBQ.
  8. Crack a cold beer.
  9. Men stand around the BBQ and cook sausages.
  10. Get sunburnt.
  11. Crack a cold beer.
  12. Eat burnt sausages.
  13. Play backyard cricket.


     
  14. Go to bed early because you have work the next day..........

Cheers mate!

 

Time Posted: Jan 26, 2015 at 2:14 PM
Ryan Collins
 
August 19, 2014 | Ryan Collins

Crop Load Study

We are currently participating in a state-wide crop load trial in collaboration with Patricia Skinkis at Oregon State University. It's a five year study that looks into the effects of yield, pruning weight and the Ravaz index on fruit quality (Pinot Noir). We are crop thinning to three different treatments:

  1. Two clusters per shoot
  2. One cluster per shoot
  3. One cluster every other shoot

Crop thinning is performed 55 days post bloom.

At veraison, leaf blades are sampled to monitor plant nutrient status and to see if the crop load is affecting vine nutrient partitioning. The reference vines are all harvested at the same time, the fruit is weighed and the samples are collected for fruit analysis. Yields in each treatment vary from year to year and depend mostly on fruit set. We have found that there are some interesting correlations between yield and fruit chemistry, but we need another three years of results to draw strong conclusion.

Time Posted: Aug 19, 2014 at 3:30 PM
Ryan Collins
 
May 31, 2014 | Ryan Collins

Bloom 2014

Just like bud burst, bloom was also early, occurring in the last week in May. At that rate we should start harvesting the first week of September with fruit from Southern Oregon and then moving into the Willamette Valley by the middle of the month.

 

As we welcome the start to another growing season we are also excited to welcome our new Viticulture Technician, Karen Peterson.  She trained at Oregon State University and has great experience working with the researchers at the Oregon Wine Research Institute. Not shy of hard work she cut her teeth working in the vineyards of Domaine Drouhin Oregon doing everything from field work, tractor operations to technical work. She brings a good work ethic, technical and practical knowledge and we’re excited to have her on board to help continue our understanding of growing grapes here in Oregon.

Time Posted: May 31, 2014 at 12:17 PM
Ryan Collins
 
April 1, 2014 | Ryan Collins

April First, Bud Burst

We’re off to a good start this season with a nice warm and dry spring.

No joke, the buds burst on the 1st of April, about 2-3 weeks earlier than average.

Time Posted: Apr 1, 2014 at 11:55 AM
Ryan Collins
 
April 10, 2013 | Ryan Collins

Recycling Sprayer

REX HILL purchased the first recycling sprayer in Oregon and only the second on the West coast. This cutting-edge equipment is the most environmentally friendly sprayer available and will be used in the Biodynamically farmed, owned and long leased vineyards. It will reduce spray drift by 95% and cut pesticide use by 40%, which means less spray per application, less time filling up the holding tank, and less fuel usage.

REX HILL's new Recycling Sprayer at Biodynamic, Jacob-Hart Vineyard

REX HILL's new Recycling Sprayer at Biodynamic, Jacob-Hart Vineyard

GRAPE DISEASES

Wine grapes are unfortunately very susceptible to a number of diseases. This is our fault, as humans, for propagating them for thousands of years through mass selection and for transporting them around the world carrying diseases with them along the way. The main diseases that challenge us in Oregon are Powdery mildew (Erysiphe necator) and Botrytis bunch rot (Botrytis cinerea). The climate in California is favorable for these same diseases and others like Downy mildew, Pierce's disease and Phomopsis. There are many things we can do as farmers to reduce the impact of these diseases through cultural practices like canopy management. However, Powdery mildew, in particular, will destroy a crop if not controlled using pesticides.

WHAT WE DO ABOUT IT

It is important to understand that using the term 'pesticide' includes many categories like insecticide, fungicide, bactericide, rodenticide, and herbicide. These are named based on the target organism and not because they are organic or inorganic chemicals. In the case of Powdery mildew, we need to spray fungicides to control it. Fungicides are products or substances that help control fungal pathogens. Typically fungicides are sprayed by a machine that is towed behind a tractor. It has a tank, pump and nozzles that apply the fungicides to the canopy. Most sprayers use air to transport the liquid to the canopy. Unfortunately the air often carries a percentage of fungicides past the target which is wasteful and not great for the environment.

HOW WE DO IT

We have recently purchased a sprayer manufactured by LIPCO that is a recycling tunnel sprayer. This is the first unit to be sold here in Oregon. It sprays two rows of vines at once within a tunnel (so wind doesn't affect the coverage). A tunnel sprayer has walls that surround the vine on both sides of the trellis. Attached to the wall are the nozzles that spray the vine. The spray that travels past the target hits the other side of the tunnel, runs down to a sump and is pumped back to the tank. This collected fungicide is then applied again. Essentially the sprayer is a precision sprayer. The application rates vary with the canopy size and 95% of the liquid that doesn't stay on the vines' canopy is recycled. There is next to no drift of pesticides to neighboring properties, waterways or any other sensitive areas. Because we are spraying two rows at once we are now using less diesel, compacting the soil less and we are getting more coverage with less fungicide. We should reduce the amount of fungicides used by approximately 35% and our diesel cost for spraying should go down by 50%. These sprayers are not cheap but we are committed to environmental stewardship and want to be leaders in sustainability.

Time Posted: Apr 10, 2013 at 10:27 AM
Ryan Collins
 
November 30, 2012 | Ryan Collins

Jacob-Hart Vineyard: Planting Out the Rocky Block

REX HILL’s Jacob-Hart Vineyard was planted in 1988 during the early years of the Oregon wine industry.  Situated on a southeast facing slope in the Chehalem Mountains AVA, the vineyard is certified Organic & Biodynamic and in a rare geological feat--it has every major soil type found in the Willamette Valley.

The unfortunate thing about Oregon’s old plantings is that they are self rooted Vitis vinifera. Now, there is nothing wrong with self rooted vines, in fact, many winemakers are convinced they produce better fruit. The problem with self rooted vines is that they are susceptible to phylloxera: a grapevine root aphid that causes vines to die. The only solution for a vineyard that is struggling with phylloxera is to replant it on a rootstock that can tolerate this pest. 

At our Jacob Hart Vineyard phylloxera was found in 1996 and ever since then it’s been slowly replanted. Martin Loeza, one of our Vineyard Managers, has worked at Jacob Hart since the beginning. He was there when the vineyard was planted in 1988. He has planted every block, some of them twice. He remembers planting 5E ‘the rocky block’ back in 1989. 5E was the hardest to plant and the hardest to farm but has consistently grown the best fruit in the vineyard.

In 2010 we got less than a ton per acre from this block and it was time to talk about replanting. I was discussing with Martin the replanting program, “I think 5E is going to be next.”   Martin didn’t like that idea, you could see the pain on his face just thinking about planting it again, he replied, “Oh no; maybe one more year.”

We wanted to retain the heritage of the block and use the clonal material (most likely Pommard)  that performed so well in that site. Before we pulled out the original Pinot Noir vines we took thousands of cuttings to be grafted onto a phylloxera tolerant rootstock called 3309. When it came to planting, we couldn’t use the typical augers because they only work in soil. We had to dig the holes by hand with shovels, picks, hammers and metal bars.  Putting in the line posts was worse.

Once the vines and posts were in it was up to Mother Nature to do the rest. There were nice bursts of sunshine and warmth in early spring to break the vines out of dormancy. We also had a couple of weeks of rain in early June to really water the vines in and keep them growing longer into summer. The summer however was extremely dry, with one of the longest dry spells in over 50 years. Thankfully we put in a temporary drip irrigation system to keep the soil around the vines from completely drying out and the vines from shutting down. We achieved great uniform growth across the block despite the rocky conditions and dry summer. All the credit goes to our great vineyard crew and the nursery for supplying us great vines. I’m looking forward to seeing some great growth next year!


 

Time Posted: Nov 30, 2012 at 11:03 AM