Sunday, July 13, 2008
VITICULTURE - 101
Mason, TX: Home of Fort Mason, an Army outpost built in 1851 to protect settlers from marauding Comanches . . .
Now home to the Parr Vineyard, started in 2005 to cultivate quality grapes and protect them from marauding birds!
Every southwestern vineyard can benefit from the services of a vaquero riding around on his steady steed, shooting pesky birds before they "dine on the vine." Here, that duty falls to the main viticulturist himself, Robert Parr, as he cautiously circles the crop in his pick-up, skillfully felling the hungry, flying varmints.
Once Oscar realized it was 97 degrees and the ground was covered with paw-puncturing sticker burrs, he said "Hey Pete, I really wanted to work out in the vineyard with Robert, but I'd rather hang out in the Wonder Egg making sure the air conditioner is functioning correctly. So why don't you take my place today, OK?"
So . . . that's how I received a great hands on lesson on viticulture! I found it to be a fascinating, meticulous, creative, and soul filling labor of love. I learned about discerning the most viable vine to become the cordon arm, working towards a well balanced structure, and pruning the vine to stimulate the correct growth pattern. Here are some of the day's sights:
A nicely balanced canopy of Tempranillo -
Rows of Tempranillos disapearing into the Texas countryside:
Legions of young vines with blue "grow tubes" marching off into the distance:
Robert displaying some of his luscious Touriga Nacional:
When we went inside for a break from the heat, Oscar said "Hey Pete, the A/C seems to be working just fine even though it has reached 100 degrees out there. I've been studying about viticulture this afternoon! What say, when the cool of the evening is upon us, you carry me out into the vineyard so I can inspect the progress? OK??"
So . . . when the cool of the evening came, Oscar assessed the crop. "Pete, here we have some 3rd Leaf, 1st Commercial Crop 'Small' Touriga Nacional. That explains the uneven ripening for now."
When Oscar got a load of these grapes he shouted "Stop the presses and BRING ME THE REFRACTOMETER!!!"
I said "The what?" Oscar exclaimed, "Pete, I thought everybody new that by smearing juice from the grape on the lenses of a refractometer and holding it up to the light you can determine the 'brix reading' which is a measure of the carbohydrate (sugar) levels in the fruit. A reading of 23 would be optimum for wine production."
Robert prepared the refractometer and held it for Oscar, who was in Dilek's arms and we all held our breath for his pronouncement . . .
He said "These grapes have a brix reading of 21.5, I estimate you'll be able to harvest them in about a week and a half. And by the way, the grape juice is YUMMY!"
Well, there you have it . . . our viticulture adventure. Oscar thanked Robert and Dilek for inviting us out to see the operation and get some hands on experience in this amazing pursuit.