Q&A Vineyard Update with North Gate Vineyard

Hello Friends,

Today’s Q&A is with Mark and Vicki Fedor of North Gate Vineyard, a small family owned and operated farm winery located amongst beautiful surroundings in Purcellville, Virginia. I recently visited with Mark and Vicki to discuss and taste through their wines. Much of our discussion took place in their 3 acre vineyard, as it should, since great wine starts in the vineyard. Given the atypical drought-like conditions and warmer than normal temperatures of the 2010 growing season so far, I tapped Mark and Vicki to get some hands-on information regarding what they are experiencing in the vineyard.

Mark and Vicki Fedor

Dezel: Tell us a little about your vineyard, elevation, soil type, what you have planted, etc.?
Mark and Vicki: At North Gate, we currently have about 3 acres planted with an additional 2-3 acres ready to plant in our current vineyard block. Our primary plantings right now are Petit Verdot and Viognier. We also have a little Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Our site is at about 600-630 feet elevation. The vineyard site is relatively flat with a slight gradient down towards the southeast. Most of the vineyard has a heavier soil, with a relatively good balance between drainage capacity and water retention. As you go down the gradient to the lower portion of the vineyard, the soil does get a bit more clay-based. We’ve learned that choosing the correct root-stock and matching it with the correct area of the vineyard is important for our site. Our site seems to have good cold-air drainage as we have not experienced frost damage. We had some slight frost damage in the lower portion of our vineyard very low to the ground during the May 2010 frost events.

Dezel: With warmer than normal temperatures and drought like conditions, what are your thoughts on the 2010 growing season so far? Virginia growers usually have to find a way to get the water out, now I’m sure there is a need to get some water in, right?
Mark and Vicki: There have been some pros and cons to this growing season. The extreme, consistent heat has really allowed us to cut back on our vineyard sprays. The hot weather tends to suppress the fungi and molds that cause your typical vineyard diseases. However, the heat has really accelerated the growth of the vines. The amount of acceleration depends on how much rainfall or water you can get to the vines. We have noticed that this season has had wide-spread and scattered storms which have hit certain areas and left others dry. Here at North Gate, we’ve been lucky to have received rain just at the right times so our vines have pretty much stayed free of drought stress. We are not swimming, but the vines are happy. For vineyards that irrigate, it is a challenge to balance the water to the vines versus the heat in order to keep vine vigor in check. I can see where over-watered vines and this extreme heat could cause a vigor problem in a vineyard this season. In general, the vines here at North Gate have done well and we’ve worked hard to keep the vines in balance. With that said, we are looking at our Viognier coming in earlier than normal. It is a bit too early to get a good prediction on the Petit Verdot, but we hope the weather moderates and things will settle in for a good harvest.
North Gate Vineyard

Dezel: How has the current hot and drought like conditions impacted your white and red varieties? Has it been okay for the whites, good for the reds, etc.?
Mark and Vicki: The earlier ripening grapes are more likely to be affected by the current season’s extreme weather. At this point in the season, there is less time for a weather pattern change to affect them. There are people getting ready to harvest Seyval next week. Those vineyards that are brave enough to grow Pinot Noir and Riesling are harvesting it as we speak. The late season reds like Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon and to some extent Cabernet Franc have a chance to even out and fall into a “normal” harvest schedule depending on the weather. Merlot seems to be a red that is caught in between. Some Merlot sites harvest in mid September so that will likely come in early. However, some Merlot sites in Loudoun have an early October harvest time so they still have time to settle in.

Dezel: Have you had to do anything different this season to adapt to the 'changeup' Mother Nature is pitching?
Mark and Vicki: No, not really. We’ve been growing grapes in this area for about 10 years now so we’ve experienced all kinds of extremes that this Northern Virginia climate can throw at you. We’ve had to work more at keeping the canopy open, we’ve watched the crop load pretty closely, and we’ve adjusted the amount of sprays we’ve needed down quite a bit.

Dezel: If you could send a nice little note to Mother Nature on what North Gate Vineyard needs for the remainder of the growing season to bring in the highest quality fruit, how would that note read?
Mark and Vicki: Dear Mother Nature, we’ve had enough of the hot days this season. How about some mid-to-upper 70’s with low humidity? Cool nights would also be a benefit! Our grapes have really grown like crazy this year so we need to give them a nice comfortable ride into the harvest season. Maybe a bit more gentle rainfall over the next week or so would be nice, but then a fairly dry harvest time would be wonderful. Please, no more wind and hail! If you could arrange that, we would all be very happy and we’ll send you a bottle of fine North Gate wine. P.S. Please keep any hurricanes and tropical storms out in the ocean where the marine life can enjoy them!

In closing, I would like to thank Mark and Vicki for their time and all the great information about where they are in the 2010 growing season. Hopefully Mother Nature reads my blog and will deliver another outstanding vintage to Virginia wine growers! Have a question about this post, friends? Feel free to leave a comment or send me an e-mail at myvinespot@yahoo.com, and as always, Happy Sipping! Stay tuned friends ...More to come!

Info: North Gate Vineyard, 16110 Mountain Ridge Lane, Purcellville, VA 20132, T(540) 668-6248

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