Watson's News

Welcome to Vintage 2019!

Well its 3:46am and I just woke up realizing that I had not updated you on this years grape crop yet or it's a few pre harvest jitters! Thank goodness that with technology it will be in your computer in a couple of hours compared to a weeks work of printing, sticking address labels and stamps, stuffing and the dreaded licking of envelopes. I still recall the grumbling when the kids came in at lunch and saw the dining room table full of newsletter supplies. Well a lot has changed since then but one thing that will always be consistent is the unpredictability of the weather. Wow what a year so far, startingoff with a cold wet and late spring to a hot dry summer with absolutely perfectly timed rains. We had not seen any credible amount of moisture for about 50 days and I had soil moisture probes sending me alarms to let me know its getting very dry. We checked the weather and with no rain in sight for at least a week, Connor and I spent a day setting up the damn and the suction lines in preparation of starting to trickle irrigate asap. Well the next morning we had this uneasy feeling and by 10 am the winds were really starting to pick up with very little time to prepare for the golf ball size rain drops which left us with 3" of water. It was awesome and exactly what we needed. We quickly removed the damn to allow the deluge of water to rip down the drainage ditches and a day later we removed the suction lines and locked up the sea container where the pumps and filters are mounted. The ground soaked up all it could and on the Thursday wegot another 2". So if you are keeping track that is 5" of water over 3 days and 2 days after that we were driving in the vineyard thanking ourselves for installing drainage pipe in every row. The soil is now fully charged to take us through harvest but no doubt we will get some moisture from the inevitable hurricane season down south.

I always feel that harvest is the end of the season and boy was I looking forward to a fresh start. Last year was our worst year in12 with well over a hundred tonne of grapes being left in the field. For those of you who measure grapes by bottles that's a composting of 100 000 bottles worth. We were able to harvest and fill our orders in a timely manner but the large processors were overwhelmed and too busy importing finished wine to properly attend to the local crop. Things must change with recognition for 100% Ontario wine being of the utmost importance. Well I said my piece and now its time to focus back on the positive namely a fantastic winter with only a few dips into the dangerous temperature zone. The buds were all within a manageable zone and by that I mean we can leave extra buds, to a certain extent, to mitigate winter damage. All varieties are looking good with only the cabs needing some severe thinning due to the shortened season.

We will be removing most of our Cabernet Franc after harvest this year due to a virus which effects tonnage and sugar. We have seen a steady decline over the last 8 years and made the decision last year to pull the plug. The replacement vines will come from a nursery in California which offer virus free vines. This world wide problem has been identified as red blotch, leaf roll 1 and 3, and pinot gris virus. Over the past couple of years our association has brought in experts from around the world with the latest being Dr Vaughn Bell from New Zealand. Starting off with clean vines is the most important step followed with control of vectors. Thankfully we do not have a long list of vectors and in this climate they have their problems as well. We have secured a replacement block of CF for our now called "premium market", versus "rose market", so not to worry. As an industry we are all very thankful that the rose wines category is growing the way it is as its a great user of less ripe Cabernets. I would anticipate that all red variety vineyards will be replaced with new virus free vines within 15 years so needless to say that research, laboratory testing and propagation nurseries are all busy busy busy.

Regarding my family, Cathy is still working off the farm 2 days a week and claims she does this to get away from me, which I still can't seem to understand why. She was operating the tow motor last year as most days Mom and Dad were pressing grapes. Connor had a fantastic lacrosse season and is looking forward to year 2 at Guelph. With the exception of operating a GPS guided grapevine planter for 4 weeks, he has worked all summer on the farm. Allie is now a licensed radiation therapist and was very fortunate to land a position at the St Catharines general hospital cancer clinic. She will be available to help with harvest so you will all see her when you pick up your orders. Bruce will be here during the week to look after the packaging and restocking as well as wine supply sales but is busy making his award winning wine on the week ends. I think that with the exception of a few friendly visits, Sue will not be here this harvest. I still don't know how we will get by without her but sooner or later the training wheels need to come off. A huge heartfelt thank you to Sue for running the show for 18 years. I will certainly miss going into the store and asking Sue what I can do? She has taught many people how to make wine and still gives me heck for skipping some steps. For all you 60+ people out there I must say that you are very much needed to not only work but to teach these young kids how to work and still have fun! Thank you for your orders and please note to refresh your screen before you submit as some varieties are sold out. Please also note that the last word of the newsletter is "fun" so please remember to have some.

See you soon, The Watsons