Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Trials and Tribulations of Nod Vineyards

They started as small sticks, cut from our friend’s vineyard in Dundee, Oregon. They were nurtured in 1 gallon pots for 2 years before they found their permanent home in our back field. These Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir starts are now producing beautiful grapes that are the starting point for Nod Vineyard’s wine.

That sounds much better than the wine actually tastes. We are still working out details to make the perfect wine, and learn by making mistakes along the way. September 2009 was our fifth harvest. The books say it takes that long for the vines to mature to make a good wine and our results seem to corroborate that. The 2009 Pinot Gris, bottled in February this year is the best so far. The 2009 Pinot Noir is still in the 5 gallon glass carboys aging, waiting until fall to be bottled.

Along the way we have purchased the supplies to turn the grapes into wine. A stemmer-crusher, a press, 30 gallon commercial grade garbage cans, 5 gallon glass carboys, and all the testing and treating supplies. It takes Cris and I two days to harvest and crush the Nod Vineyard grapes, one day for each variety.

Cris is the maintenance man for the field, in charge of pruning and spraying. He made his own contraption using a spray apparatus hooked up to his leaf blower. It’s pretty comical to watch. He sprays with a weak solution of organic sulfur to prevent botrytis (or grape rot) just until the grapes have reached a certain sugar content.

My job is as the chemist. I test the grapes for sugar content, pH, and acidity to determine the perfect time to harvest. I mix and add sulfite and yeast to the must to turn the sugar into alcohol. It’s a major process for the first couple of weeks until the primary yeast has finished its job. I also am the recorder and historian, keeping track of what we did each day in an effort to create the perfect system.

It takes both of us to rack the carboys, which we do every several months to get rid of the sediment (lees) on the bottom. We love watching the color get clearer as the wine ages. And of course we have to test it along the way.

We set up shop in our kitchen to do the bottling. Getting the bottles ready is a big process that has to start several days ahead of time in order to get the bottles clean and dry before we use them.

We made a storage area into a wine cellar.  I painted and Cris designed and welded the wine racks that cover two full walls.

One day we will have a vintage that we can proudly serve to friends and family. One day soon, I hope.  Because.......


  1. OMG -- this is so cool! Talk about interesting! When your Hillstead mystery is published I hope to toast to you with some fine Nod Vineyards wine.

    Thank you for sharing this. It's really interesting to me. I would love to follow you around for a day.

    Funny -- when I went to post the jumble letters were 'apint' and I was thinking, no, silly, we're talking WINE not BEER!

  2. What an amazing undertaking! I'm so glad you shared this process here in words and in photos. The fact that you and Cris are working so diligently to perfect your wine making is interesting and admirable.

    Congratulations on the success you've already achieved.

    P.S. The vineyard and the wine racks are awesome.

    P.S.S. I would love to see a picture of you as well.

  3. Thanks! It has been a lot of work, but we have had a blast learning about it. We worked a harvest at our friends the year before our first harvest so we could see how it was done. Natasha - any time you want to venture to the west coast, you are welcome! There is even room to stay!
    Shaddy - that't me in the purple (Pix 4). If you click on the picture, it should enlarge.
    Nod Vineyards stands for "Narly Old Dude" which was Cris' car racing moniker. (I know it should start with a G, but GOD Vinyards was just too pretentiuos. :)

  4. I had no idea this was a passion of yours! I love good wine and what you do sounds so incredibly fascinating and fun!! The wine racks in your basement just make the whole thing uber cool. And I simply love the name!!

  5. Well, "good" is the key word! We are trying. It's an art form with a trial and error component, kind of like writing. Our goal is to have have bottles we can share; we have no plans to sell this labor of love.

  6. How cool is this! I can't wait to show my hubs your post. We would love to do something like this. The best part is that you get to do it together. Please keep us posted as to how it goes. I'd love to be on the list of those who get to order the first bottles when you're ready to let the world taste your labor or love.

  7. If you need someone to be a wine-taster, I'm first in line!

  8. There is a large vineyard in Florida called LakeRidge. Which gave me the idea that we could actually make a few bottles of our own one day. For the same reason as you, to share with friends and family and for our own pleasure. I had no idea you could grow grapes in Florida before Lakeridge came to be.

    Friends of mine used to make wine from blackberrys, blueberrys and believe it or not oranges, but it is far to sweet for my taste.

    As soon as my hubs saw your post he went out back and started pacing off rows and getting ideas. I may have to distract him with another Harley too slow him down a bit. I'd prefer a larger peice of property before we plant more than the few plants we have. I consider them our learners that we can practice with until such time as we know what we are doing. If we don't get it right, there is always jelly!

  9. Our bible has been "From Vines to Wines" by Jeff Cox - a paperback that costs $18.95 If you are truely thinking about growing your own grapes, it is worth buying it. He tells you how to pick the grape, situate and space the plants, how to plant, prune, etc all the way thru making the wine.

  10. Wow! Is that cool! Thanks for sharing.

    Darksculptures - I love your comment about your husband. And you made me LOL with the jelly.

  11. Great pictures, who knew you were hiding such awesomeness from us, PW.
    Making wine is no small feat.

  12. You all were sharing pictures of your lovely plants and flowers, so I thought I would show you what takes up a bit of my time. I think we will have bud break this weekend, two weeks earlier than last year.