The season is upon us! Anyone familiar with winemaking knows that this is the time of year where the very first steps are taken to create the wines you love. If you’re a little less familiar with the process we’ve gone through and listed the steps us winemakers take, starting with the pruning of the previous year’s vines and ending with your glass full. Take a look below and see how we do it!

1.  Winter/Spring Pruning

This is the process where we remove about 95% of the vines growth from the previous year. Pruning usually begins around during the month of March here in New York but can be done any time after leaf fall. The main trunk and cordon still remain, but we cut back the shoots that grew the previous year down to two to four buds which will become this years shoots.  Each shoot will produce 2 to 3 clusters of grapes. The reason we do this is to keep the vine from becoming too large and overgrown, and it also helps with fruit quality as well as to prevent disease.

2.   Bud Swell

This is when when the vine starts to come to life. All the buds the were left from the pruning will begin to swell which usually happens during the month of May depending on your micro-climate. It usually lasts only a few days until bud break.

3.  Bud Break 

This is when to bud breaks open and the shoot begins to emerge. Depending on how warm of a Spring we’re having, this will take place in a day or two. 

4.  Bloom  

As the shoot grows you will see the “flowers” begin to emerge (which look nothing at all like flowers). Most grapes form what we call perfect flowers, which mean they have both a pistol and a stamen (male and female parts). This means they are self pollenating. A little breeze and mother nature takes care of the rest! After this takes place grapes will begin to form from the flower. Not all grapes are self pollenating either, but they all start out green and hard as marbles. This takes place usually in early June (at Fossil Stone Vineyards).

5.  Shoot Thinning and Shoot Combing

This is the maintenance of the vine. We usually leave a few extra buds on during pruning (EX: 4 when we only need 2). We do this in preparation for a spring frost, which can causes to lose a few shoots. If we don’t get a Spring frost, then we usually have too many shoots which will require a longer period of time for the vine to ripen the clusters. This can push the process later into the season when we may have a fall frost, so we simply cut off the extra shoots. Combing is just a time consuming process where we untangle the vine so it gets more sun and the vine can keep dry. We do this throughout the growing season as it’s very time consuming. 

6.  Veraisia

This is a pretty word that is used to describe the process in which the vine begins to drop sugar into the clusters of grapes.  Red grapes begin to get their color which is typically what we spot first. It’s much harder to see this in the white grapes. Veraisia usually lasts for about 7 to 10 days (at Fossil Stone Vineyards). The grapes will then begin to soften and come into their full color (around late July and early August).

7.  Harvest 

All our hard work leads to this! In the Northeast, during the Months of September and October we pay close attention to what we call brix levels. This is just a fancy term for sugar levels. We measure it in percentage and use a special tool called a refractometer to do this.  Each variety is different. For our Fossil Stone Marquette (red) we like to get the brix to 25 degrees which is pretty high. This means we let them hang longer than the whites (LaCrescent).

So there you have it. Our start to finish steps on how wine is made! Keep an eye out for us online throughout the season to get up and close photos of this process, step by step. A big shout out to Mike from Fossil Stone Vineyards for putting this together!

Gerry Barnhart, winemaker at Victory View Vineyard, enjoys wine. That is why when customers ask why he got into the business, he replies, “I’ve enjoyed drinking wine for a long time.”

After retiring from NYS Department of Environment Conservation as Director of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources, Gerry Barnhart wanted to keep busy on his farm in Easton. So, in 2008, with the help of his family, he planted cold-hardy grapevines in an alfalfa field. In 2010 he crafted a small batch of marquette which received local acclaims. So, he planted more vines, crafted more wine and opened a tasting room in August 2013.

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Since National Mulled Wine Day is coming up on March 3rd, we want to share a little bit of our knowledge of mulled wine with you, our favorites, and how you can make your own! If you’re someone that loves a little heat and spice with your wine then this is exactly what you’re looking for.

What is mulled wine? Mulled wine is wine that has been heated and spiced and usually made with spices, fruits, and occasionally honey. Some of the more popular mixes will combine cinnamon, nutmeg, citrus, vanilla, and more!

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