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Virginia Cooperative Extension -
 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

Viticulture Notes

Vineyard and Winery Information Series:
Vol. 17 No. 6, November-December 2002

Dr. Tony K. Wolf, Viticulture Extension Specialist

Table of Contents

I. Current situation

II.France Wine Study tour

III.Upcoming meetings

I. Current situation

We're running late (!!) on this issue, partly because of the two-week trip to France in December, partly due to the holidays, and partly due to the need to make grant proposal deadlines for the coming year. There are a few important dates coming up that you'll want to check out. January 14 is the cut-off date for making lodging reservations at the Hotel Omni for the VVA technical conference in February (see Upcoming meetings). If you plan to stay at the Omni, and we hope you will, get your reservations in. Also, please note the series of pruning demonstrations that are scheduled for January.

What will you remember most vividly from the 2002 growing season? What lessons were learned and how will these experiences be profitably applied in the coming years? The end of the year offers a good occasion to reflect on such issues and to begin laying the groundwork for the coming season. If you're happy with the quality of grapes and wines from the 2002 season, perhaps your vineyard management needs only a slight fine-tuning. If 2002 was a disaster, what was the reason? How could problems observed in 2002 be avoided in the future? In general, the 2002 season will likely be considered one of Virginia's better years, particularly in regards to the quality of white grapes. The dry summer translated into a somewhat early and very high quality harvest for Chardonnay, Viognier, Sauvignon blanc and other whites, but the resumption of rains in September and October made it difficult to obtain concentration in the later-maturing reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon. One lesson that was reinforced during 2002, especially in the central Piedmont, was that a properly used irrigation system minimized vine water stress, resulting in more rapid and uniform fruit maturation. Except for Cabernet Sauvignon, we were very pleased with the quality of grapes harvested at our research vineyard in Winchester. Repeated rains in the fall meant that the Cabernet grapes "hung" at around 21°Brix for over a month. When skins began to degrade and botrytis started showing up, we harvested. In hindsight, we should not have planted our Cabernet Sauvignon on the deep, fertile soil (Hagerstown-Lodi series) where we did, 12 years ago. It did not take 12 years to reach this decision, but it was a decision that was reinforced by the 2002 season.

Figure 1. Fall daily minimum low temperature (F) and Mean Low Temperature Exotherm temperatures (F) for dormant buds of Cabernet Sauvignon cropped at two different levels during 2002.

As we head into the winter months, the perennial question arises about the prospect for winter cold injury. It's been almost 6 years since the state experienced widespread, severe winter cold damage and many of us are wondering how long our luck will hold out. Based on our routine measures of bud and cane cold hardiness, the vines at Winchester are in a very good stage of cold acclimation, thanks to a late-frost (1 November) and cold, but non-damaging temperatures in November and December (Figure 1). The minimum temperature thus far in our vineyard was 12F, which occurred on 7 December. That temperature was well above the temperature (about -3°F) which would have caused appreciable bud kill to Cabernet Sauvignon, our least hardy variety currently grown at Winchester. The Mean Low Temperature Exotherm (MLTE) temperature determined on 18 December had further decreased to -5°F, which is about as cold hardy as we can get Cabernet Sauvignon. The MLTE temperatures plotted in Figure 1 are laboratory-derived temperatures which correspond - more or less - to a field temperature that we could expect to cause about 50% bud kill (Wolf and Cook, 1994). Thus, if temperatures dropped to -5°F in late-December, we could expect about 50% primary bud kill with our Cabernet Sauvignon. The data of Figure 1 include bud hardiness values from Cabernet that were cropped at two different levels (high and low), which correspond to about 4 tons/acre vs. 8 tons/acre. As in previous seasons, crop level appears to only measurably affect the rate of acclimation, not the mid-winter cold hardiness. Note the slight spread in hardiness between the 2 crop levels at the first date of measure in October. Other varieties grown at Winchester are also at good levels of cold hardiness: Cabernet franc had a MLTE temperature of -7°F on 16 December, while Viognier was about -9°F. Traminette, a hybrid, had a MLTE temperature of -13°F at that point. The above data are from our vines at Winchester. Your own Cabernet, Viognier or other vines may differ in cold hardiness; however, unless your vines were grossly mismanaged, I suspect that they too should be at a reasonably good stage of hardiness.

Reference cited:
Wolf, TK, and MK Cook. 1994. Cold hardiness of dormant buds of grape cultivars: comparison of thermal analysis and field survival. HortSci 29:1453-1455.

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II. II. France Wine Study tour:

Twenty-one wine industry members, including Bruce Zoecklein and myself, had the opportunity to tour several wine regions of France between 4 and 17 December. Tour arrangements had been made principally by Pascal Durand, University of Burgundy, and Leslie Weston of Cornell University. Highlights of the trip were VINITECH, a huge viticulture and enology tradeshow in Bordeaux, the Jurancon, near the southwest city of Pau, famous for its Petit Manseng and Gros Manseng wines, and the Madiran, where we began to understand why Tannat is so important to this region. From the Madiran we dog-legged northeast to Cahors (Malbec) and then southeast to Gaillac and Minervois, the latter a sub-region of Languedoc, where Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre form the backbone of wines. Heading further east we visited Avignon and worked (sic) our way north up the Rhone to Condrieu and Cote Rotie, with a final stop in Beaujolais. Besides the indulgence in 'L'art de vivre', the tour was an inspirational learning experience that will not be soon forgotten. For me, the visits to some of the more obscure French wine regions were a highlight. I've long been interested in Petit Manseng and Tannat, feeling that they have a place in Virginia. To see them grown, to speak with the winegrowers in the Jurancon and the Madiran, and to taste the local wines only reinforced that conviction. I was impressed with the desire and passion of our French hosts and hostesses to further develop the regional typicity for their products. That was clearly evident in every region that we visited and Pascal complemented that effort by ensuring that our lunch and dinners reflected the regional flavor. The goal of wine quality improvement was ubiquitous. In the vineyard, there were four issues that were common to almost all of our stops. One, of course, was the choice of variety grown. There was some experimentation occurring, but mostly the winemakers in the various regions were trying to capitalize on the varieties that were allowed within their appellation of origin. A second commonality was the winemaker's knowledge of how different soil physical features affected wine quality. We are only just beginning to appreciate how different soils affect wine quality in Virginia. A third recurring, if not universal, observation was the French approach to vine density. Generally, their direction is towards higher density. For example, at Cht. Montus in the Madiran, the owners were increasing the Tannat vine density from 1600 vines per acre to 3200 vines per acre. Why? Our host, winemaker Fabrice Dubosc, insisted that higher quality wines could be produced by decreasing the amount of crop on individual vines. The increased density did not, as far as we could tell, reduce vine vigor; almost all of the vineyards we visited - even those in the relatively dry Rhone region - were repeatedly shoot-trimmed during the previous (wet) growing season. The movement to higher density was also evident at Cht. Aydie, also in the Madiran, where existing rows (about 6 feet wide), were being inter-planted with another row. While I don't think such high density will help our issues with excessive vine vigor, I'm certainly open to the suggestion that the lower crop per vine may have quality benefits. Whether such benefits would occur, and whether this approach is economical here, remains to be explored. VINITECH made it abundantly clear that the Europeans have a much more sophisticated and diverse supply of mechanized equipment to operate in narrow-row vineyards, and this will be one practical limitation to our movement towards higher vine density. The fourth commonality among most of our stops was the focus on keeping crop levels relatively low (low by our standards). At Cht. Montus, for example, Fabrice wants Tannat to be cropped at 1.9 to 2.7 tons/acre (29 to 40 hl/ha) [15 hl/ha is approximately equal to 1.0 ton/acre). Our Tannat at Winchester averaged 5.2 tons/acre, and was as high as 8.8 tons/acre. While I'm not advocating that we limit ourselves to less than 3.0 tons/acre, I do think that we, in Virginia, need to take a closer look at yield and quality relationships, particularly with our reds. Whites, I believe, will be less yield sensitive. Petit Manseng at Cht. Jolys in the Jurancon, was cropped at up to 4.7 tons per acre (for dry wines), but closer to 3 for sweet.

What was most memorable about the trip? I'd have to say that the opportunity to meet and talk with so many of our French hosts, who were so hospitable and so willing to spend their time and share their knowledge with us, was a high point. To hear Kees Van Leeuwen describe the soils at Cheval Blanc in Bordeaux, to listen to Marion Henry passionately discuss her Manseng wines at Cht. Jolys, to bask in the sun and hospitality of Francoise Le Calvez and Pascal Frissant at Cht. Coupe Roses in Minervois, were just several of the personal, priceless experiences we all enjoyed.

A comprehensive, illustrated "journal" is being prepared, and should be posted to the web within the month. We will also delve into more details of the trip at the upcoming VVA Technical meeting in February.

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III. Upcoming meetings:

A. Pruning workshops:

Three separate pruning workshops are being held in different areas of Virginia in January. The workshops will be conducted rain or snow, so please dress accordingly, and bring your own pruning shears. If the weather is truly horrendous, call the host vineyard on the morning of the scheduled workshop to confirm that it will be held. Tony Wolf will conduct the workshops and will provide an overview of pruning and training principles, followed by a pruning demonstration specific for the training used in the host vineyard. There should be an opportunity to discuss pruning and training procedures for both young (< 3 years old) and older vines at each event.

13 January, Monday: Cooper Vineyards, Louisa VA (Louisa County) 540-894-5253. We will begin at 10:00am and be outside until noon. At noon, we will go inside for lunch and questions. Please bring your own pruners, bag lunch and drink. Vineyard includes Norton, Vidal, Viognier and Chardonnay of varied age. Directions: From I-64, take exit 148 (Shannon Hill Rd.). Go north 8 miles to winery entrance on right. Alternatively, from the north, take Rt 522 through town of Mineral. Five miles past Mineral turn right on Rt 605, cross Rt 33. Winery is 1 mile on left.

14 January, Monday: Veritas Vineyards and Winery, Afton, VA (Albemarle County) 540-456-8000. We will begin at 10:00am, will likely conclude by 12:30. Please bring your own pruners. Directions: From I-64, west of Charlottesville, take exit 107. Go west on Rt 250 for 6 miles to Rt 151. South on Rt 151 for 3 miles to Rt 6, then west 1.3 miles on Rt 6 to Saddleback farm on right.

20 January, Monday: VA Agricultural Research and Extension Center, Winchester, VA (Frederick County) (540-869-2560 x20). We will begin at 10:00am, will likely conclude by 1:00. Vines are bi-lateral cordon-trained, lyre-trained, and Geneva Double Curtain-trained. Directions: Virginia Tech's AHS Jr. Agricultural Research and Extension Center (AREC) is located approximately 7 miles southwest of Winchester, VA in Frederick County. From Interstate-81, take the Stephens City exit on the south side of Winchester. Go west into Stephens City (200 yards off of I-81) and proceed straight through traffic light onto Rt 631. Continue west on Rt 631 approximately 3.5 miles. Turn right (north) onto Rt 628 at "T". Go 1.5 miles north on Rt 628 and turn left (west) onto Rt 629. Go 0.8 miles to AREC on left.

B. Virginia Vineyards Association's Annual Technical Conference

This year's VVA Annual Technical Conference is scheduled for 13-15 February 2003, and will again be conducted at the Omni Hotel in Charlottesville. The program is diverse, and should offer something of interest to all attendees. The Thursday afternoon program will focus primarily on new winery developments and will include discussions on Trademarks and Contracts, Public Relations, new winery information, and labor. A wine social will follow on Thursday evening. Friday is a full day of viticultural topics, plus a one-day exhibitor tradeshow. Saturday is a mixture of viticultural and enological topics, including a photographic review and narrative of the recent wine study tour of Southwest France. The preliminary program follows:


  • Registration Form - Word document

    Thursday, 13 Feb
    12:00 pm General registration Pre-function area
    1:00 - 6:00 pm Wine Marketing Session
    Mary Davis-Barton, VDACS coordinator. Topics to include:
    • Trademarks and contracts
    • Public Relations, tasting room savy, web sites and other marketing issues
    • New winery information, highway signs, farm winery exemptions, etc.
    • H2-A and H2-B labor options
    Salon AB
    6:00 pm Exhibitor set-up Prefunction and Salon C
    6:30 - 10:30 pm Wine reception Omni Hotel atrium

    Friday, 14 Feb
    7:00 am - 5:00 pm General registration Pre-function area
    7:00 am - 6:00 pm Exhibits open  
    8:00 - 8:15 am Tony Wolf, VA Tech
    Lindy Pond, President VVA
    Introductory remarks
    8:15 - 9:15 am Tony Wolf, Virginia Tech Effect of training system on Viognier, Cabernet Franc, and Traminette yield components and basic fruit chemistry
    9:15 - 9:45 am Doug Pfeiffer, Virginia Tech VA Grape berry moth research updates
    9:45 - 10:15 am Break  
    10:15 - 11:10 am Jim Travis, Penn State Updates on grape disease management programs for eastern vineyards
    11:10 - 11:20 Jerzy Nowak, Virginia Tech Dept. Horticulture Emerging opportunities and applications in horticultural research
    11:20 - 12:00 am Lindy Pond, President, VVA, presiding Virginia Vineyards Association Business Meeting: Custom crush, direct shipping, labor and other issues all registrants should plan to attend
    12:00 - 1:15 Lunch  
    1:15 - 2:00 pm Alex Blackburn, Loudoun County Planning Soil genesis and soil suitability for Virginia vineyards
    2:00 - 2:45 pm Mark Chien, Penn State University Observations of techniques and practices that contribute to high quality fruit and wines under diverse growing conditions
    2:45 - 3:15 pm LeAnn Beanland Virginia Tech Updates on Grapevine Yellows research
    3:15 - 3:30- pm Break  
    3:30 - 4:30 pm Bob Evans, USDA/ARS
    Northern Plains Ag Res Lab
    Frost avoidance and frost protection and other aspects of agricultural meteorology
    4:30 - 5:00 Speaker TBA  
    6:00 - 9:00 pm Cocktail reception with vendors Wine reception staged in exhibit hall.

    Saturday, 15 Feb
    7:00 am General registration Pre-function area
    8:00 - 8:15 am Bruce Zoecklein, Virginia Tech Introduction to enology sessions
    8:15 - 9:00 Francisco Carrau Overview of grape and wine production in Uruguay
    9:00 - 9:30 Emily Hodson, Virginia Tech Effects of aroma/flavor trapping on Chardonnay wine quality
    9:30 - 10:00 am Break  
    10:00 - 10:45am Bruce Zoecklein, Virginia Tech Phenol management techniques in Virginia vineyards and wineries
    10:45 - 11:45 pm Bruce Zoecklein, Virginia Tech
    Sensory evaluation of phenolic management techniques: panel
    • Dave Collins, Breaux Vineyards
    • Michael Shaps, King Family Vineyards
    12:00 - 1:15 pm Lunch  
    1:15 - 2:00 pm Pascal Durand Overview of SW France and Rhone region tour, possible future tours
    2:00 - 2:45 pm Francisco Carrau Technology of Tannat production
    2:45 - 3:15 pm Break  
    3:15 - 4:30 pm K. C. Fugelsang, CSU, Fresno Effects of alcohol on wine aroma/flavor

    Please use the enclosed registration form to register. Note that room reservations must be made by 14 January, and that conference registration fees increase sharply after 1 February.

    C. Other upcoming meetings of interest

    14 Grapevine Pruning Workshop and Vineyard Technical Meeting. Naylor Vineyards and Wine Cellar, Stewartstown, PA. Focus will be on balance pruning of grapevines for quality. A visual presentation will show the major vine training systems and how to prune them correctly. This will be followed by a pruning demonstration in the field. Limited to 30 people. Cost $10. For registration, please call Mark Chien at 717 394-6851. Information and directions about Naylor Wine Cellars at

    16 Tannin-Color Measurement and Management Short Course. Food Science and Technology Bldg. Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA. Pre-registration required. Fee $200. Only 14 slots available. For information and registration go to

    28-30 Unified Wine and Grape Symposium. Sacramento Convention Center, Sacramento, CA. One of the largest wine and vineyard conventions in the U.S. Topics include wine marketing and business, enology, grape growing and much more. For information, go to

    28/29 Alternative Viticulture Conference. An alternative viticulture conference will be offered by Penn State Cooperative Extension of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, on January 28 and 29, 2003. This is a day and a half meeting, which will be held at the Spring Garden Conference Center in Middletown, PA, just east of Harrisburg. The cost will be approximately $100 per person for both days, which includes coffee, continental breakfast, drinks and snacks on both days, and lunch on the first day. A list of motels and restaurants in the area list will be provided with registration materials. For more information and registration, please contact Mark Chien at 717 394-6851 or

    1,8, Pruning Clinics in Maryland. $7. 2/1 - Old Stone Farm in Landenburg, PA. 2/8 Upper

    15,22 Marlboro Farm Vineyard, Upper Marlboro, MD. 2/15 - Belfiore Vineyard, Hampstead, MD. Western Maryland Research and Extension Center, Keedysville, MD. Contact Ray Brasfield for information and directions or go to

    6 New Grape Grower Workshop. Howard County Fairgrounds, West Friendship, MD. Intensive one-day workshop covering all aspects of developing a commercial wine grape vineyard in the East. Hosted by Maryland Cooperative Extension. Instructors are Dr. Joe Fiola (UM), Dr. Tony Wolf (VT) and Mark Chien (PSU). For information and registration, please contact Susan Provost at 301 432-2767 ext 315. This is essentially the same "Basic" program which was last offered here in Virginia in October 2002, and which will again be offered in Virginia in the fall of 2003.

    13-15 Virginia Vineyard Association Technical Conference, Omni Hotel in Charlottesville, VA. Thursday afternoon will focus on wine marketing followed by wine social. Friday will comprise trade show with full day viticulture program. Saturday will concentrate on wine-making issues. For information, please contact Dr. Tony Wolf or Ms. Patricia Peacock at 540 869-2560 ( or ( or go to

    15 North Carolina Winegrower's Association Annual Meeting at the Marriott Hotel in Greensboro, NC. For more information go to

    20-22 Viticulture 2003 - Buffalo Convention Center, Buffalo, NY. In-depth sessions on vineyard management, with breakout sessions on pest management, soil management, vineyard establishment, sprayer technology, a wine marketing workshop, trade show, and more. For more information, go to

    1 Maryland Grape Growers Association Annual Meeting in cooperation with University of Maryland Cooperative Extension. Howard County Fairgrounds, West Friendship, MD. Focus on vineyard and winery analysis. $45 member, $55 non-member. For information, please contact Dr. Joe Fiola, 301 432-2767 or Ray Brasfield at

    15 Grape Expectations at Forsburg Country Club, Jamesburg, NJ. Annual wine and grape meeting in New Jersey. All day meeting covering a variety of viticulture and enology topics. Contact Sherry, Rutgers Cooperative Extension (609 758-7311) and Dr. Joe Fiola, Univ of Maryland Cooperative Extension.

    16-19 Wineries Unlimited. Lancaster Host Resort, Lancaster, PA. Large meeting and trade show for the East and Midwest regions. Topics include sustainable viticulture, varietal sessions on syrah, viognier and red hybrid blends, grower topics include frost management, the grape root borer and drought management. Advanced Winemaker's Seminar" on Wednesday (separate admission), covering a range of issues from grape quality to processing options and bottling efficiency. David Sloane, new president of AVA will be the keynote speaker. For information go to

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    "Viticulture Notes" is a bi-monthly newsletter issued by Dr. Tony K. Wolf, Viticulture Extension Specialist with Virginia Tech's Alson H. Smith, Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Winchester, Virginia. If you would like to receive "Viticulture Notes" as well as Dr. Bruce Zoecklein's "Vinter's Corner" by mail, contact Dr. Wolf at:

    Dr. Tony K. Wolf
    AHS Agricultural Research and Extension Center
    595 Laurel Grove Road
    Winchester, VA 22602

    or e-mail:

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