During the growing season, our winemakers venture beyond the 470 acres of our organic estate vineyard to make the rounds all over Oregon and Washington wine country. They do this throughout the summer, visiting the 40+ vineyards that grow grapes for our wines.
On a recent trip the first week of June, winemakers visited our grower partners in Silverton and the Northern Willamette Valley to check in on vine growth. We work closely with vineyard managers from the start to ensure their vines yield the best possible fruit when it comes time for harvest. Getting the best wine in the bottle, and subsequently into your glass, is an effort that starts long before the first buds break on the vine.
Growth slowed down slightly with the cooler weather we had the first week of June. Things are looking very good and are still easily ahead of last year. The weather forecast for the upcoming week is looking even better. Bring on the summer sun!
- Jeff Kandarian, Director of Winemaking & Viticulture
It’s that time again. Bud break signals the beginning of the 2012 growing season at King Estate. Tiny buds first started popping up in March, and the vineyard achieved 100% bud break in early May. Last year, bud break wasn’t until mid-May, so Vineyard Manger Meliton Martinez and the vineyard crew are paying special attention to the vulnerable buds to ensure optimal growth. Secondary buds are manually removed to make sure the primary bud (which contains 2-3 grape clusters) receives most of the nutrients and energy, “we have to touch every single bud to remove them,” said Martinez. The process takes about two weeks with 60 people working all day at the task.
If there was ever any question about the efficacy and efficiency of sheep in vineyard management, we think this photo sums it up quite clearly. Pictured above, is a vineyard row divided by a fence at the edge of a 2 acre vineyard block in which a group of Sheep were contained. The sheep eat grasses, weeds and other vegetation, offsetting the use of tractors and other farming equipment in the vineyard. The sheep are sequestered in one several-acre area like this for a few days and then rotated to a new vineyard block, ensuring we end up with a nice neat block chewed down to an even height. On the left, we have the evidence of a job well done by our mini-lawnmower friends, and on the right, a block yet to be visited by these extremely efficient farm animals.
Over the last couple of weeks King Estate welcomed 1,500 mini lawn mowers to our 1,033 acre certified organic property. The borrowed sheep quickly eat overgrown grasses and weeds in our vineyard so we don’t have to run our mechanical lawn mowers and weeding equipment, which saves fuel, time, and money. The sheep get free organic food at our all you can eat buffet and add a certain charm to the estate. These furry visitors can only do their job in the early spring before bud break entices them to munch on vines instead of the mustard flowers and knee deep grass. This is our third year bringing in sheep to offset the use of tractors and other machinery that run on fossil fuels, 1,500 sheep is almost three times as many as we have ever had on the property at once. Check out the video above featuring Vineyard Manager Meliton Martinez and the photos below to see the first 700 sheep arrive.
Last September, King Estate vineyard workers noticed an injured Red-tailed Hawk on the estate. Volunteers from the Cascades Raptor Center quickly rescued the bird, which had an infected foot caused by a prey bite. Four months and one amputated toe later, the hawk proved that it was well enough to return home to King Estate where it and other birds of prey play a vital role providing natural pest control. Owls, hawks, and other raptors thrive on our 1,033 certified organic acres because there is no chance of poisoning through the food chain, and there is plenty of room to roam. King Estate Winery and Eugene’s Cascades Raptor Center are proud to hold a unique partnership that allows orphaned and rehabilitated birds of prey a second shot at life in the wild world.
Join us on Earth Day, Sunday, April 22nd, one week before the Eugene Marathon, for a scenic 5K run through the rolling hills of our certified organic vineyards. Fingers crossed for beautiful weather like last year, but as is the way in Oregon, this event is going on RAIN OR SHINE.
This month, members of the Ultimate tier of the King Estate Tower Club, will receive a limited edition magnum of our Domaine Pinot Noir. The screen printed, wax sealed bottle will arrive in a unique box featuring an infographic that tells the story of the wine and the meticulous barrel selection process that ensures only the best estate organic fruit makes it into our Domaine blend. We’ve posted an animated version of this same infographic for your viewing pleasure.
2011, though challenging in many ways, appears to be a year of above average-fruit quality. The vines bore a lot of fruit, and with the late season it became worrisome that all the fruit would ripen, so measures needed to be taken. In a late year like 2010 and 2011, we really ride the razor’s edge, waiting with bated breath to see how ripe the fruit can get before the rainy season begins. In an effort to ensure that fruit fully ripens, it is often necessary to cluster thin, dropping clusters of otherwise perfect grapes in order to ensure that fewer clusters fully ripen and develop concentrated flavors. Often cluster thinning enhances the character and concentration of flavors in the remaining grapes since the vines are stressed and have less fruit to focus their energy on. In the end, the harvest at our 470 acre certified organic vineyard at King Estate can be characterized as a year of lower than typical yields but high quality. It is always a difficult decision to drop so much fruit on the ground, and it comes at a great economic expense, but it is also the only decision if you want to improve quality, harvest good fruit, and ultimately make the best wine possible in a challenging year. The goal is to overcome whatever obstacles are presented to make the best wine we can.
King Estate is teaming up with SolarCity, a national leader in solar power, as well as Lane Electric Co-op, and Advanced Energy Systems to install the largest solar power system at a winery in the Pacific Northwest. Construction on the 973.84 kilowatt (kW) solar system began this month.
Five years in the making, this is a very exciting time for the winery, the culmination of a lot of hard work between us and our partners in this project. This installation is a collaboration between King Estate and Advanced Energy Systems, which developed the project; SolarCity, which provided financing and integration support; and Lane Electric as the utility partner. The system’s 4,144 solar panels on about 4 acres of land should eliminate more than 38 million pounds of carbon dioxide over the next 25 years. According to estimates provided by the Environmental Protection Agency, this amount is equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from 3,381 passenger cars or 1.9 million gallons of gasoline. The King Estate solar power system is large enough to offset the annual power usage of approximately 100 residential homes.