With the help of SolarCity, Lane Electric Co-op, and Advanced Energy Systems representatives, King Estate Winery officially welcomed our four acre solar array with a ceremonial ribbon cutting on Saturday, July 14th. The array is one of the largest solar arrays ever in the Pacific Northwest and certainly the largest at a winery in the region.
The four acre solar patch translates to 1-megawatt of power generation, or enough to power 100 local homes. While addressing the crowd, CEO and Founder Ed King III expressed his gratitude to everyone involved in moving the project forward and emphasized his ambitious vision of seeing the state of Oregon become the first carbon neutral state.
The project took 5 years to plan and fund, but was built in only four months. See photos of it’s construction here. The panels went online in March 2012. In the next 25 years the 4,144 panel array is projected to offset at least 38-million pounds of CO2. 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.
During the growing season, our winemakers closely observe the growth in the vineyard on our organic estate and also venture beyond our own 1,033 acre property 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. This update for the first week of July, details their observations thus far on our own organic estate.
This year is off to a great start thanks to the warm weather we had at the beginning of the growing season. We are on about the same schedule as bud break and bloom in 2008, a particularly renowned vintage. Currently we are at 354 growing degree days which is typically when we near 100% bloom, you can definitely smell the grape blossoms. Most vineyard blocks trained to a VSP (Vertical Shoot Positioned) trellis are 80-100% in bloom and the split canopy systems are between 70-90% on average. So far so good!
- Christopher Hudson, Assistant Winemaker
Organic lavender is in full bloom at King Estate Winery. The brightly colored and fragrant flowers will remain purple for a few more weeks but will be peaking this weekend. Due to an exceptional harvest last year, from which we yielded over 3 gallons of essential oil, Garden Manager Jessie Russell explained that we will forgo the harvest this year and allow the lavender to bloom on. Products made from our organic estate-grown lavender, including essential oil, lotion, and gift sets, are available for sale online and at the Visitor Center. Gift sets feature lavender infused oil, lotion, shampoo, conditioner, natural soap, shower gel, and hand sanitizer, and are available for a new lower price of $12. Watch the video to take a closer look at the lavender harvest and distillation processes:
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.
The people behind Mutineer Magazine are a lot of fun to
hang out drink with, and we also like the product they put together. Their magazine has interesting stories and beautiful editorial photography by their extremely talented Director of Photography, Portland’s own, Ian Vincent Andreae. A few weeks ago, King Estate hosted Mutineer Magazine’s first winter retreat, where the Mutineers bonded and brainstormed article topics and art for the upcoming year.
Here’s a video detailing their retreat at the winery:
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.
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.