Friday, July 27, 2012

Heat stress? Could be worse

Since my last report about heat and drought stress, I've noticed a few more raisins developing on clusters that are high on the vine, not as well shaded as the lower-placed fruit. 

Leaves at the top of the plants are turning brown, but what else can I expect? It's 100 every day with no rain.

Actually, the grapes mostly look really good. The yield is high, and the fruit seems to be ripening a little early. I suppose it's possible that I did not do the vines a favor by thinning only a few clusters last month. But it's hard to argue with success ...

... or at least signs of success so far.

I have decided to stop watering the vines. I did that a couple of times in July, but now I plan to let the sugars and acids concentrate. This is what Erv Langan at Keltoi Winery has been doing all season long — allowing the vines to stay stressed for maximum grape quality, as described in a report by Brad Douglas, KODE/KSN News, at

One last thing: I have made an exception for the youngest plant in the row, whose leaves are turning brown throughout, not just on top. I watered this one today:

 I'm wondering whether some of this damage (detail below) is black rot:

One last note: If we as a planet are now in the grip of palpable global warming — if Missouri's average high for July and August is destined to be 100 — is it worthwhile to keep growing grapes? Maybe we should switch to cacti and make tequila ...

Friday, July 20, 2012

Vineyard update: Japanese beetles long gone, dwarfed by heat, drought

This is a response to a recent flurry of hits based on searches for "Japanese beetles."

In a post about a month ago, I reported that I had covered my vines to protect the leaves from the the shiny green bugs. A photo I posted showed a fair amount of damage to some leaves, but it was localized on the tops of some vines. I didn't have enough cover to protect all the plants, and I pinched off the bugs on the exposed plants. Then, in a week or so, the beetles went away.

I heard several reports of spotty beetle infestations in the area. The rose garden at the Close Memorial Park apparently was attacked, and a vineyard north of town was sacked as well. However, other people I talked to said they hadn't seen any Japanese beetles this year.

With the terrible heat that began in late June and the months-long drought, Japanese beetles seem to be an insignificant and bygone problem. A few grape clusters have shriveled, and some grapes have dropped off:

In response, for the first time since my vines were sticks in the ground, I have watered them — on two occasions this month. After the first time, the shriveled grapes actually plumped up again.

Overall, though, I am finding lots of clusters of early ripening St. Vincent grapes that look really good:

Thursday, July 12, 2012

"Butterfly" connections: Gretchen Parlato

While I was doing research for an interview, I came across this video of Gretchen Parlato singing "Butterfly" from Herbie Hancock's "Thrust" from his mid-70s Headhunters period.

Amazing how Parlato echoes not only the melody, but also, from the original version, the timbres of the percussion and the nuances of Bennie Maupin's saxello solo. Then she moves on to deliver her own interpretation with some tasty note choices. 

Compare to my earlier notes about Bennie Maupin and his contributions to the original recording.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Richard Bruton Band live at Pappy's

Richard Bruton

The Richard Bruton Band has been playing regularly for nearly a year at Pappy's, where co-owner Scott Keese has made a home for the group.

On June 26, the band did a live recording for a CD, which Bruton said he plans to hand out to supporters at Pappy's. The beer garden was packed, and the evening was even more festive and friendly than the typical Pappy's vibe. With a larger crowd and a recording device in the house, the band clearly had an extra measure of energy that night.

My highlights were "Lament," the J.J. Johnson tune that featured Sid Norris on trombone — followed by Cannonball Adderly's "Work Song" with a long unaccompanied intro by Bruton.

The video above is a simple audio slideshow with photos running parallel to sound clips from the evening.

The band plays Thursdays at Pappy's, starting around 6:30 p.m. Members are Bruton, tenor saxophone, flute and EWI; Norris, trombone, Ryan Talbot, keys; Ian Erickson, drums; and Austin Wilson, bass. Thanks for a great evening!