Saturday, June 26, 2010

Urban vineyard update; The Shroud of St. Vincent

Last year was the first time the vines produced grapes. The yield was negligible, about 100 grapes all told, but, with so little to lose, the season provided a valuable education in the war against pests. Last year’s campaign went badly, as Japanese beetles devoured the leaves in June and, in August, birds scarfed at least 50 of the 100 grapes. However, toward the end of that campaign, I had learned how to fight. This year, I believe I have the knowledge and the means to win.

First, here are two lists of things that don’t work:

To fight beetles, I sprayed the vines with carbaryl. That poison killed bugs on contact, but new arrivals didn’t seem to be affected. I also tried those “traps” that lure the bugs with sickly sweet bait. They are worse than useless; they actually attract the bugs to the foliage. Even though I followed directions and placed the traps at a distance from the vines, I still attracted thousands of Japanese beetles from other neighborhoods. Some ate themselves to death in the traps. Others explored the area, found the vines and shredded them.

Against birds: I tried fishing line, mylar streamers, shiny clattering objects, and a fake owl. Birds ignored them all. I encased grape clusters in garden netting of thin, black, half-inch mesh. Fluttering birds inserted their beaks into the gaps and plucked one grape at a time.

Then, late in the battle against the birds, I tried something called seed guard, a white, lightweight, see-through garden netting from Dewitt Co. in Sikeston, Mo. I wrapped the areas of the vines where grapes still grew. Birds could not reach them. This gauzy fabric proved to be effective against pests but also allowed plenty of ventilation for the vines. I watched for a possible greenhouse effect, but the wrapped areas remained vital.

This year, I am using the Dewitt seed guard on a large scale. I’ve wrapped the vines as if they were the object of a Christo project. The netting undulates in a breeze, creating a ghostly presence, especially in the evening. For this reason, I have chosen to call my installation The Shroud of St. Vincent, after the variety of grape I am growing.

The shroud is a labor-intensive project, though. For one thing, it’s fragile, held in place by garden staples and clothespins. Earlier this month, two storms blew it down. It takes about an hour to reconstruct. Whenever I need to apply fungicide, I have to unwrap the vines and rewrap. That's a small price to pay — I'm winning the war.

The Japanese beetles are here, but they can’t penetrate the shroud. Hah!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Odds are, you’ll find a winner at 7C’s

Owner Dwight Crevelt behind the tasting bar at 7C’s.
The winery is about 20 miles north of Springfield.
Take Missouri 123 just beyond Walnut Grove
and turn east on 560th.

Among several discoveries at 7C’s Winery, I had one big surprise: I tasted a mead that I actually liked.

Until last Sunday, I have known the honey-based wine, which was popular in Europe from the Roman Empire through Medieval times, as a drink with an bitter kick at the end. But I’ll try anything more than once.

When I sipped Dwight Crevelt’s mead, I enjoyed the floral nose (he didn’t name it Wild Flower Mead for nothing), the light, soft nutty notes on the tongue, and a finish that you might call bashful. I kept waiting for the dreaded aftershock, but it did not arrive. I’d never tasted a mead this smooth, I told Crevelt.

"Oh, you were expecting that punch right at the end — Yeah!" he shouted, pumping his fist. Then, in a matter-of-fact tone, he gave me the reason for my unexpected pleasure: "Mead has to age."

I was surprised to learn, though, that by aging, he meant as little as 5-6 months. Apparently I’d been tasting one bad mead after another by a crowd of woefully impatient mead makers.

The name of the winery, by the way, refers to the initial of the first names of the extended Crevelt family.

Noteworthy 7C’s wines include: an earthy, spicy and fruity Norton; Branding Iron Red, a dry blend of St. Vincent and Chambourcin; and Cattle Drive White, a semisweet Vidal. All of these choices will meet expectations for state-of-the-art Missouri winemaking for these grapes.

The wine titles and labels have a cowboy theme, which threw me a bit in light of the winery’s location in the hilly Ozarks. Maybe the theme derives from the Crevelts’ years out West, though Las Vegas is not exactly a cow town.

In Las Vegas, Crevelt worked the gaming industry — hardware and electronics. Among his achievements, Crevelt developed and updated card-reader electronics for electronic gaming machines while working for a Las Vegas maker of slot and video gaming devices.

For a sampling of his work, see this search result from IPEXL, an intellectual property exchange directory. He also has his own gaming consulting firm that explores vast areas of automated gaming.
The 7C's building stands on high ground.
Click on the photo to enlarge.
The winery holds regular Sunday afternoon
musical get-togethers on the grounds.

Wine trail leads to Le Cave Vineyards

Le Cave owner Beth White among her vines.
The winery is south of Billings on 413.
Turn east on Jasmine Road (watch
carefully for the modest winery sign).

During a visit on Sunday, June 6, to Le Cave Vineyards south of Billings, I learned about the efforts of the wineries of the Ozark Mountain Wine Trail to promote their wines across the lengthy range of the trail, from Seymour in Webster County to Oronogo in the Joplin area.

The seven wineries have joined forces to host occasional get-togethers at their various locations. Sunday was Le Cave’s turn.

"Instead of waiting for the people take the wine trail, we’re bringing the wine trail to the people," owner Beth White said. "We all take our wine, and we all pour."

Le Cave’s Spring Fling event unfolded in the shade of walnut trees near a stand of vines. Wineries represented were Keltoi, 7Cs, Oovvda, and Whispering Oaks. Visitors settled in with picnics, bought wine and listened to a live band.

Discussion of Le Cave’s wine included conjecture about the influence of the walnut trees on the wine flavor. At the tasting bar, one of our hosts suggested the Norton had a hint of walnut. Maybe so.

I loved the Frontenac, a cold-climate grape. The luscious dry red had depth but somehow remained restrained and gentle — soft fruit, soft oak, rich finish.

I liked the 2008 Chambourcin: deeply rich red color, touch of spice. The 2007 Chambourcin does not measure up to the 2008.

Coming Saturday, June 12: Pierce City Arts Festival

Festival planners invited the Ozark Mountain Wine Trail to provide tasting for the event, said Larry Green of Whispering Oaks Winery. The festival website says tasting will occur at Bookmarks, LLC (corner of Walnut and Commercial) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The old barn at Le Cave has a fascinating ceiling
that made me think, for a moment, that I was
inside a wine barrel. Click on the photo to enlarge.