Vintage Notes 2004

The 6th harvest of our estate vineyard started on Oct 1, 2004 and we hand picked grapes from all of our 38 acres planted at Sheldrake Point finishing on October 30th. The five acres of our oldest vines planted in 1997 include Pinot Noir, Gamay, Riesling and Cabernet Franc. Our youngest block is one acre of Cabernet Sauvignon now in its second year of production. We also harvested a few hundred lbs of Syrah from one experimental row. Riesling and Cabernet Franc make up about 50% of our vineyard.

Last winter was cold and snowy in the Finger Lakes. While the excellent water and air drainage of our lakeside site afforded us considerable protection, even here the episodes of very cold weather damaged vine buds thereby reducing our overall crop from a normal yield of 100 tons to a little over 45 tons. We also lost some vines to winter kill and will replant these to maintain full productivity of our vineyard.

Spring came early and the summer was overcast and somewhat wet. This made it imperative to control weeds and maintain the health of the vines and developing grapes. To ensure proper ripening and the exposure of fruit to early morning sun, our crews removed leaves from the fruit zone, mostly on the east side of the rows. However, the summer was warmer than 2003, and late August all of September and a few days in October were truly magnificent with long sunny days.

In order to achieve the wine quality standards that we have established for Sheldrake Point, we must produce healthy fruit and achieve a high degree of concentration in the grapes. David Wiemann, our Vineyard Manager has developed a canopy management program to deal with the first issue, and a crop management strategy for the second. One of the key steps is to grow vines that are in balance with the quantity of grapes they carry. In Pinot Noir for example, this entails reducing the crop by removing bunches so that one strong shoot bears no more than one cluster of fruit. This year our Pinot yielded 3.3 tons of fruit, just a little under one ton per acre!

It is vital to grow vines that have the appropriate balance between vegetative leaf canopy and the load of ripening fruit that each vine is capable of carrying. In some circumstances, such as is the case for the vigorous parts of our vineyard, vines are simply growing too big but at the same time cannot carry enough fruit to ripeness to achieve balance. To achieve vine balance, we have modified the trellis system of wires and posts used to support the vines. The vigorous blocks of our Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc have been converted from Vertical Shoot Position (VSP) to Scott Henry, a divided canopy. This system involves more leaf area (sun receptors) and therefore ripens proportionally more fruit. Please join us for one of our scheduled tours and we will demonstrate the importance of this very clearly.

A sunny late August and September have made a marvelous impact and we expect the quality of the resulting wines to be very good to excellent. The whites have expressive fruit flavors and well balanced, refreshing acidity – a hallmark of cool climates such as the Finger Lakes. The reds are medium bodied, ripe tannins and well balanced – likely excellent food wines.

Once again we plan to produce Riesling Ice Wine. Our Ice Wines are produced from grapes left on the vines to freeze during winter, and harvested and pressed as frozen grapes in the traditional manner. Ice wines are sweet, balanced with vivacious acidity and full of intense flavors – a true labor of love and a rarity.

Over the balance of the fall, winter and spring we will be installing tile drainage between vine rows. This will ensure that the roots of the vines remain dry and will increase the overall health of the vineyard and further improve the quality of or estate grapes. We are also another 3.5 acres of Pinot Gris – a wine fermented in stainless steel to express its minerality and freshness.

Bob Madill
Winegrower

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