Now is the winter of our discontent

Shakespeare would have had a field day living in the Okanagan. You can pretty much complain about all the winters here. Winter is supposed to start officially on December 21 being the shortest day of the year, but with all the festivities surrounding Christmas and New Year, nobody here takes winter seriously until at least January 1st.  However, with the Mayan debacle behind and a new calendar opening up in front of us we started the new year full of optimism – at least until the BC institute of Chartered Accountants unleashed 3107 newly qualified accountants  upon an unsuspecting public.


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Temperatures had been fairly mild up to this point, but we had a fair bit of snow and lots of pruning to do before our planned holiday in South Africa so off we set like Good King Wenceslas accompanied by his rather grumpy page and got on with it. By mid-February Ann had had enough and took off for Cape Town leaving me to make 17 trips to the city dump to get rid of the prunings and then clean all the tendrils etc. from the wires – a job which ranks up there with weeding. With Ann not there to talk to me as I worked, I spent a fair bit of time musing about new and horrify statistics about owning a vineyard. For example, did you know it was possible to walk as much as 50 miles during a season on a 2-acre vineyard? I would be happy to share the math with you if pressed.


Finally my turn to take off for Cape Town arrived, but with the journey taking about 36 hours of which about half is actually flying and the rest waiting around in airports, the suffering was not over yet as the seats get harder and smaller each year. But, arriving in Cape Town winter was instantly behind us, and we settled down to enjoying good weather, good company, copious glasses of Sauvingnon Blanc (that’s all they seem to drink there) and large quantities of biltong (South African jerky liberally laced with Australian Kangaroo – but that’s another story). As a minor concession for us paying for their flights Mike & Sean joined us there in the second week so that Mike could ride in the Cape Argus bike race and Sean could acclimatize himself to the Sauvingnon Blanc while lying prostrate on a deck chair in the sun and watching the proceedings. Mike surprised us by completing the 110 Kilometer race without any bloodshed and suffering only from a few cramps and severely sunburned arms.


A couple of days later the boys handed us their computers, bicycling equipment and redundant clothing to carry back to Canada and took off for Botswana, the Seychelles, Tanzania and Zanzibar where, against all predictions, they did not throttle each other and seemed to have a great time before maxing out their credit cards and returning home. Ann and I remained in Cape Town to relax and enjoy the company of old friends, and a bottle of ’92 Penfold Grange which my step brother very generously brought from Australia. Most of the time was spent at the coastal cottage of Ann’s sister Claire, for which we were/are extremely grateful.


We returned home at the end of March refreshed and eager to start tying down the canes. Having got a little ahead of our timetable, I got the dumb idea of filling in time by spreading compost over the vineyard. Three tons of organic compost was ordered and delivered without much thought given to how we would spread it. It sat there in a pile which seemed to get bigger every day until we sprang into action with our spades and a little cart we pulled behind our ride-on mower. At approximately a spade full per vine this represented 4000 spades full of compost (one to put in the trailer and then one to spread it along the vines) so I can confidently tell you we will not order compost again in a hurry without paying to have  someone do it with a mechanical spreader.


With weed and cut-worm season looming on the horizon (more later) we took off for Vancouver for Cathy Russell’s 60th Birthday party which coincided with the launch of  the 2012 Synchromesh/Thorny Vines Riesling. (if you want to order and I will be checking  to see who does). I am undoubtedly prejudiced, but Synchromesh have done a great job with the wine and there have been some quite favourable reviews which we will provide links to under the “Our Grapes” section when Michael or Sean get their collective act together and update that section of the website.


Wine Launch (8) Wine Launch (7) Wine Launch (6) Wine Launch (5) Wine Launch (4) Wine Launch (3) Wine Launch (2) Wine Launch (1)


It was particularly fitting for Cathy’s 60th to be on the same weekend – like a good wine Cathy seems to improve with age as her memory fades and she forgets to play party games on her special weekend. She was, however, likened by all to the Energizer Bunny and , I am told, without the benefit of any alcohol. Cathy turned in a magical performance on the dance floor which any 75-year old would have been proud of. It was a wonderful weekend thanks to the organization of Jo, Andrew and Dani, capped off by a sedate open house hosted by the Goldies who now insist that the Thorny Vines exemption from any vineyard work be renamed in recognition of their contribution (or lack thereof) to the cause.


 Cathy's Party3


We returned back to Thorny Vines to face the remaining  pile of compost which seemed to have grown in our absence. However, with the help of Barb Spence driving the tractor (when we could tear her away from cleaning up the herb garden) while Bill and I shovelled, we have refined the process made a small dent in the pile. I don’t know how we will move the rest when they are gone but row 34 has been renamed in recognition of their efforts.


Bill & Barb (2) Bill & Barb (1)


In the meantime we await the advent of the 2013 crop of cut-worms which crawl up the trunk and along the cordons of the vines where they feast on the young buds at night. Our strategy for dealing with them this year is (a) hope there aren’t any, (b) Let the weeds grow as cut-worms are partial to Shepherd’s Purse and Grabba, and this kills them: and lastly (perhaps in desperation) (c) patrol the vines at midnight armed with a flashlight and a pair of tweezers to squish them with. We are looking for more volunteers for this important task.