Down on the Farm

Whoa! It’s been close to a year since I’ve made a blog entry. That’s mostly because I’ve been working hard on my novel (stop laughing). But it’s early morning here on Ox-Eye Farm, everyone else is asleep, and I feel inspired. So much is happening on the farm, in the winery, and in the tasting room.

I’ll write in two segments. First, On The Farm:

What a weird year, so far! We had a spring that didn’t seem interested in arriving. At first this pleased us. A long winter is more comforting to a winegrower than a warm February that might cause early bud-break followed by a killing frost or freeze. But, at long last spring did arrive, buds did break in late April and what happened? A killing freeze.

We were luckier than most, losing only a small portion, maybe less than 3%, of our fruit. Some vineyards were totally wiped out. To hear “we lost 50% of our crop to frost” is not uncommon this year.

Situations like this cause wineries to scramble. Virginia fruit is at a premium. Even without the killing frosts and freezes there are more Virginia wineries than vineyards can support. Happily, we don’t have to search for fruit, since John grows all his own and still sells fruit to select wineries.

So after winter pruning came spring planting. We increased the size of our vineyard by planting 3 more acres of Gewurztraminer. That brings our total acreage under vine to 23. We’ve decided that while most of Virginia’s vineyards prefer the hybrid Traminette to the parent grape Gewurztraminer, our site does just the opposite. We’ll phase out Traminette over time.

Soggy summer! Maybe I should say another soggy summer. Almost daily rain in June and July caused massive headaches for Virginia’s grape growers. The reason? Diseases. Molds. Excessive growth. So far, John has kept the diseases and molds at bay, for the most part. We’ve been helped by the almost constant wind that flows off the hills. As for growth, John and the kids, not to mention Hector, Nora and Karla and their crew, have spent many sweaty hours with hedge trimmers. I’ve done a few rows myself, and have earned the honor of being the slowest worker on Ox-Eye. Our June 20, 2012 post Pictures! has some pictures of the hedging process.

Now we’re in ripening season. It’s time for the rains to STOP. This could be a good year for us. The crop is large and healthy. KNOCK ON WOOD.

Because of all the rain, the farm is lush and beautiful. Green grass and wildflowers – a big spring for Ox-Eye Daisies. Right now Queen Anne’s Lace, Black-Eyed Susans, Red Clover, Iron Weed, Sweet Rocket, Least Viper Bug Loss, and many other flowering weeds, including Ox-Eye Daisies, cover the fields.  Here are a few pictures I took. I’m not a botanist, so let me know if I’ve misidentified anything:

Chickory. Okay, very common — kinda ugly. But good picture, don’t you think?


Square-stemmed Monkey-flower. At least I think that’s what it is.

Bladder Campion

Spotted Knapweed

Spotted Touch-Me-Not. Love the names of these plants!

Harvest will begin sometime late this month or in September, and end sometime in mid to late October, most likely. We did have one year when we brought in the Cabernet Franc in mid November, but that was unusual. But, then again, each season is unusual in its own way. Typically, we’re the last in Virginia to harvest some of our varieties.

And then the season is over in the vineyard, and all eyes turn to the winery. Stay tuned for the next post on what’s happening there and in the tasting room.

Goodness! It’s raining again!


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