2016 Recap

We spent the winter of 2015/16 looking out the window and watching the TV weather report. The closer we got to Spring, the more optimistic we got thinking, we might actually make it this year! Once we got to April we figured we were in the clear as far as a killing freeze in the Winter was concerned. For the first time in 3 years we had come through the Winter with the potential to have a crop!

Because we didn’t have any outrageous snow events, we had been able to prune the vineyards throughout the Winter. By the end of April all of the vines had been pruned and the canes and cordons tied down. We were ready.

On May 9th we noticed the first buds swelling. There had been no damaging frosts since April and we were excited! The weather continued to be good and we had bud break around the middle of May, pretty much right on schedule with our long year average. Still no frost. We kept thinking about the frost we had on June 2nd, 1992 and dreading the possibility of a repeat but June 2nd came and went and nothing happened. By the middle of June we finally figured that we were in the clear. The wild vines around our tool shop blossomed on June 13th and our vinifera vines started on June 20th, actually ahead of our long year average.

The Summer was fantastic. I measured the water in West Bay at 77 F which I had never seen before. Swimming and boating were great and the vines were loving it; sunny and warm with just enough rain to keep things green. As an aside, BOAT is an acronym for Break Out Another Thousand. But we LOVE our boat. It’s only 17.5 feet long but plenty big enough to hold several bottles of wine and some great food. After work, almost every day you can fine my wife and me floating near Power Island in West Grand Traverse Bay. We always take along some Tonight or Celebrate and some bottles of our Malbec Rose’ and semi-dry Riesling. These all pair well with baguettes, crackers, soft cheeses, fresh vegies and olives. We love to read on the water but usually have so much company that we often don’t get around to reading.

We were progressing towards Fall and living and loving every minute of the ride. All Summer in the vineyard we had to keep pinching ourselves when we saw the grapes and reminding ourselves that this was normal, this was the way that the vines were supposed to look and that the previous two years had been the anomalies.

September came and it still felt like Summer. Swimming and boating continued right up until October. On Sept. 26th we started harvest. We started with our GM 318-57, a German disease tolerant and cold hardy variety developed at my university in Geisenheim, Germany. We now have 5 acres of this planted on the Peninsula. It is quite aromatic and will be used primarily in our white blends to “lift them up a bit”. Maybe after we get all 5 acres into full production we will bottle some of this on its own. I think GM 318-57 is such a catchy name!

We continued on with the white Pinots and Chardonnays. Then came the Pinot Noirs, Gewürztraminers and Rieslings. We did leave our oldest blocks of Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Riesling for late picking for reserve wines. For the Chardonnay and Riesling this was the 1986 block, the first vines we planted. We hope to do a special “30 year old vine reserve” from these wines. Well into November we harvested our Merlots and Cabernet Francs, finishing on Nov. 14th. This was 6 days later than we had ever finished before but the weather just kept on holding. We still hadn’t had any killing freezes.

The crown jewel of the year came on Monday, Dec. 19th when we harvested about 1300 pounds of frozen grapes for ice wine. We actually were able to press about 50 gallons of juice at an average Brix (% sugar by weight) of 37 degrees. It should be ready by next Summer.

And now it’s Christmas time. Time to relax a bit and reflect. We really needed this year and it has been good to us, very good. The wines are developing nicely. Most of the reds and some whites have been barreled and put away to rest. We’ve finished racking and begun filtering the whites. We are planning on starting to bottle the Sunshine and warmth of 2016 by the end of January. Mother Nature was certainly on our side this past year and we can’t wait to start showing off what she provided for us and what our vineyard workers were able to coax out of our little piece of this good earth. We are proud of what we have been able to harvest and are certain that you will enjoy it.

Here’s wishing you a great Holiday Season and a wonderful New Year! Mark


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Chateau Chantal

15900 Rue de Vin
Traverse City, MI   49686
(231) 223-4110

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