Saturday, September 26, 2009

Young Oak Vineyards: Volume 39: Crush Alert !!!

First thing is first,

Sorry for the last minute notice, but "THE CRUSH IS ON, BABY !!!!!"  We are going to be picking our first major harvest of grapes this:

* Saturday, October 3rd
* Coffee & Mornin' Food 8:30 a.m.
* Pickin' Begins  9:30 a.m.
* Wine Makin' 10:30 a.m.

Bring your own hand shears and gloves !!!

I been using the old methods of determining the time to pick, which are touch, taste and seed color.  And although I usually can tell which tomato to buy in the grocery store, there seems to be a little bit more to it in the vineyard.  The sugar in grape is predominately glucose, which is about half as sweet as cane sugar or sucrose. Therefore, the sweetness difference is very subtle.

Anyway, to be sure, I bought an instrument called a refractometer scope, which uses sun light and refraction to determine the percent sugar content (by weight) of a liquid like grape juice.  You know how if you put a spoon or a pencil in a glass of water it appears to be bent.  That's refraction!  Light gets bent (actually slows down) in different mediums like water, glass or grape juice.

Well, someone calibrated the amount refraction (light bending) that occurs with the amount of sugar by weight in water, which they measure in degrees brix.  The reflectometer has a glass platform to place a couple of drips of fluid on. And when you look through thru the eyepiece, thru the glass platform, you see a scale super-imposed on the field of view.  You first calibrate the scale with a sample of distilled water (no sugar there).  My scope was right on right out of the box, O% sugar!  Then you try a sample, in my case, grape juice.

So, I walked through the vineyard today and grabbed a sampling of grapes from different vines separately smashing them in different plastic bags.  I found that the brix for all my grape juice samples ranged from 23 to 24 degrees or 23 to 24% sugar.  The typical range for ripe grapes in brix is 20 to 24 degrees!  So, it is time to pick, but the earliest I can do it is next Saturday!

Anyway, I have to hit the books, learn how to make wine and find all the necessary equipment & supplies to crush, de-stem & press the grapes. Not to mention the fermentation container(s), buckets, etc.!  Pray it doesn't rain!

Wishing you well from down in the vineyard!
John

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Young Oak Vineyards: Volume 38: Autumn Approaches, But It's Indian Summer In California!

Hi all:

With the change in our weather, the cool mornings are sashaying with the warm/hot afternoons, and the grapevines leaves have turned from that bright verdant green of the Spring & early Summer to that more mature dark green color of the late Summer & Fall with a leaf of maroon thrown in here or there. The new season's growth of canes have turned from bright green to a reddy-brown as we start the Autumn season. The grapes, once little green balls, are plumper now, mostly a deep purple color. They are a little sweet, but they are not yet quite ripe with the stickiness of their sugar on the outside. The neighboring vineyards have put on their bird netting to protect the sweetening grapes from the birds. The birds will certainly know when the grapes are ripe enough to eat!

Yes, we are nearing the harvest time. School has started and so goes my cheap child labor! I too am otherwise pre-occupied by being employed now, re-hired, thanks to an exodus of veteran teachers who are leaving my district in record numbers, probably too frustrated with the constraints of teaching under severe budget cuts. So, I will have my hands full with the new alternative education program that I am entering. And, therefore, my efforts in the vineyard will have to be relegated to an occasional weekday late afternoon or weekend.

We still have our
Young Oak Vineyards Spring Honey available in two sizes:

6 oz. for $4.50    &   16 oz. for $9.00

The bees have been busy and our summer honey will probably come in late September or early October. And if you are interested in getting your own hive, our bee man, Alan, claims that you only need a small area of the typical backyard. (I feel safe at a distance of about five feet.) Alan has placed several hives in south Palo Alto homes. Here is Alan's website again: www.getbees.net

From down in the vineyard, wishing all you out there, the blessings of the approaching autumn season!
John