It was the email I had been waiting for.
“Looking VERY happy in the sun.
We have been busy lifting wires and tucking shoots this week. Oh YA. And flowering is pushing full steam ahead.”
Like a proud papa, Vineland Estates winemaker Brian Schmidt could hardly contain his excitement. And the photo attached to his email, above, confirmed it in the subject line of his message: FLOWER POWER!
Flowering is the next big step in the life of our chosen Grape X (which really isn’t a grape at all at this point) in the St. Urban Riesling vineyard at Vineland Estates.
For our adventure, something we call the Grape Chronicles, we are following the evolution of Grape X from bud to bottle. The vine we have chosen to chronicle for this project is in the first row of Field D, the 10th post (from Vineland’s restaurant) and the second vine from the post. It is marked with a pink ribbon, that’s starting to look a little weathered.
When last we checked in on Grape X, way back on May 8 (see photo on the right), our vine was just going through bud break. Our weather for the past month, a combination of heat spikes and bouts of rain, has kept Grape X on the fast track for development.
Everything is ahead of normal growth in Niagara by about a month and about two and half weeks ahead of last year.
Flowering occurs anywhere from 35-75 days after bud break (in our case, 37 days) depending on temperatures.
At this point in the evolutions, flower clusters start appearing on the tips of the young shoots. A few weeks after the initial clusters appear, the flowers start to grow in size with individual flowers becoming observable.
It is now that pollination and fertilization of the grapevine takes place with the result being a grape berry. Grape vines are self-pollinating and do not need bees to help with the blessed event.
During the process of fertilization, the pollen fertilizes the ovary which produces seeds as the flower begins the transformation into a grape berry, encapsulating the seed.
Riesling is not the first vine to flower in the vineyards of Vineland Estate, explains the winery’s viticulturist Roman Prydatkewycz. First is usually Pinot Meunier followed by Pinot Blanc. Riesling is somewhere in the middle with Cabernet Sauvignon pulling up the rear.
Prydatkewycz, shown at the right, expects berries to set in about two to three weeks at the pace they are on now. His job now is to monitor the vineyard, adjust the wires on the trellises to keep up with the rapid growth of the vines and to start some leaf removal to allow the sun to get through to the grapes, to keep the air moving and to make sure any sprays that are used get to the heart of the vine.
He says it’s too soon to tell what kind of crop the winery can expect. Berry set will determine that.
It’s been an interesting ride for Grape X so far this season, but one of the major concerns is now a distant memory — the frost that wreaked havoc on many vineyards in Niagara.
The weather since then has been ideal for grape growing with lots of heat units interspersed with rain.
Schmidt said he’s excited to see how the rest of the vintage unfolds.