Spring and Summer at Thorny Vines

We spent a long time anxiously waiting for spring only to find summer was half over before spring arrived. The real concern was how the vines had wintered and whether they would they come back at all. In early May they started to “weep” and then turn black which did not auger well for healthy vines, but the weeping turned out to be the sap starting to flow and the black was just the oxidation of the sap. Within a few days, the vines went through “bud-burst” as the pro’s call it and then took off like triffids.

By the middle of May we were ready to plant the new section up the east side of the house which Ann and I did ourselves. This is a bit of a gamble because the soil there is not as good, and parts of the new section are somewhat shaded by the house. On the other hand, it beats mowing the lawn. Other tasks included the unmentionable Roundup and the stapling, stripping and tying up the vines. This might appeal to those of you who are into the baser pursuits, but it is all disappointingly innocent, and a lot of hard work. Far from the expected enthusiastic support from the boys for our efforts at improvement of their inheritance, we were met with howls of protest that we had spoilt their Bocci-ball field.

Ann working hard

The pool was a more popular decision. In what is turning out to be one of the coldest summers on record in the Okanagan, and feeling particularly flush with my old company’s share price at record highs we committed to installation of a pool to be wedged between our lower deck and at the intersection of the old and new sections of the vineyard. Of course as soon as we made the commitment, the share price collapsed. We learned a lot about building a pool during the process:
• No matter what they say it will never be ready on time;
• It will always cost at least 50% more than you planned for. By the time you realize you need: a concrete retaining wall, a concrete deck; a fence around the pool; steps down from the deck to the pool; new sod around the pool, etc. you are in so deep you can’t see the light of day;
• Your wife becomes severely distracted by the young half-dressed workmen;
• You become distracted by the scantily clad girl- friends your kids bring around when they visit;
• Dogs love water, and don’t understand why they can’t join in the fun; and
• You don’t need a pool heater. Solar blankets keep the pool at a toasty 80 degrees and are a lot cheaper. Who cares if you can’t go swimming in October without one?

Ann took the first dip at 65 degrees and I sensibly waited until 75 degrees to avoid unnecessary shrinkage. The highlight was the inaugural pool party arranged by the boys. Fuelled by copious bottles of delightful Chardonnay from the “something went wrong with this batch” cellars of a nearby vineyard, and well attended by all sorts of people we have never met in our lives before, it all went down very well. Surprisingly, nothing ripped the pool liner.

Our kids love the pool more than us.

Ann is braver than me

Getting back to the vineyard which, after all is the purpose of this blog, it is now mid-August, and summer has almost passed us by. A bit like the whole of my life really. Summer has been disappointing, much like the rest of Canada, but this has probably been good for the young vines. We are now expecting a small crop which will not be sufficient to sell, but we will “play” with it and make a couple of cases with help from JL up the road. Provisional pricing based on sunk costs to date will be somewhere around $5,000 a bottle, but friends will receive a discount of $4,985 per bottle. This incredible offer will likely not tempt those of you who have sampled my home-made wine before.

As with last year, we have received numerous visitors. We have even received requests from complete strangers who have seen our website and didn’t twig that our “Adopt a row program” was a tongue in cheek. This has made us think that it could well turn into a viable marketing strategy for us, as there is not much money in grapes. However, we have also been in touch with a nearby winery who is interested in producing a “vineyard-specific riesling” if we can produce a decent crop. This kind of appeals to me, but we will have to ensure they are not discouraged by sampling this year’s efforts.