Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Hybridizing V. aestivalis in Loudoun County, Virginia!

      I was hoping to find a Vitis aestivalis female vine to hybridize when I got to Stone Tower, and I found TWO!  I also found a beautiful Vitis labrusca female vine right next to the Nebbiolo block in the rock pile they made when clearing the block.  The two summer grape vines are on the roadsides near the farm.  Here's some pics!

Hybrid seeds from the Mt. Gilead Rd. aestivalis

Fox Hill Rd. aestivalis with cluster pollinated using Nebbiolo flowers

Fox Hill Rd. aestivalis leaf top

Fox Hill Rd. aestivalis leaf underside

Another Fox Hill Rd. aestivalis leaf top

Another Fox Hill Rd. aestivalis leaf underside.  This is a weird vine.  I suspect it has some Vitis cordifolia in it based on the leaf shapes on the vine.

Fox Hill Rd. V. aestivalis grapes with hybrid seeds inside!

Setting of the Trammeltown V. labrusca

 Trammeltown labrusca spring foliage and berries

Seedlings of the Trammeltown Vitis labrusca X Chardonnay!  As they get older, these really look like the old variety Lindley (labrusca X Chasselas) bred by E.S. Rogers in the 1850's.

Lots of Mt. Gilead Rd. aestivalis seedlings popping up

A closeup of a Mt. Gilead Rd. aestivalis flower cluster.  Note the recurved stamens and big pistils.

Mt. Gilead Rd. V. aestivalis spring shoot leaf undersides.  They get more waxy and white-blue as they get older.

Same shoot as previous from the top side

Mt. Gilead Rd. aestivalis spring shoot tip

So, the hybridization of my current locality's aestivalii and labrusca was a success.  All were planted on at the end of July just as the rains returned.  About 50 of the labrusca X Chardonnay were planted out.  This cross is to try to find a Chardonnay-based companion to Catawba which was Semillon as its vinifera parent.  Several hundred seedlings from the Mt. Gilead and Fox Hill Rd. aestivalii went out.  These were crosses with Nebbiolo, Viognier, Graciano, and Cabernet Franc.  This year (2020) I put Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Malbec, Lenoir, Favorite, and a hybrid from friend John Glisson in Georgia.  The Lenoir and Favorite seeds will yield vines like Norton.

Enjoy your Wild aestivalis and other wild Vitis!!!

Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Hybrid Man arrives in Vinifera World!

     Well, life flows on!  After a 15 month stint at Boxwood Estate Winery in Middleburg, Virginia, I have migrated north a bit to Stone Tower Winery and live in the middle of 76 acres of VINIFERA!!!  Don't worry, I don't think I'll succumb to vinifera poisoning (you know, the stiff neck, raised nose, and faux British tone heard describing lychee, cassis, bottle bouquet, evils of American oak and the greatness of exhorbitant price!)  ­čść  I am a hybridist and always will be.  I am from this land just as the wild vines are.

     I'm called an "operator" at Stone Tower, but I also help the production head and vineyard manager with technical details and computer stuff.  The place is beautiful, and these guys do a top notch job growing grapes here that would have no business in this climate without all the help.  We get to experiment with anything that might improve the quality of the crop.  It is an awesome place to work and I am very grateful for the opportunity,  Check us out at: .

     I am going to try to find a wild aestivalis on the property to create some grapes for the owners that are much more disease resistant and capable of quality wine production.  I have two aestivalis stumps transplanted, and I am going to focus on Malbec and Nebbiolo as pollen donors.  Malbec is big berry and very juicy and grows like a flag pole.  Nebbiolo is huge clustered, tannic, dark and difficult.  Anything making a Nebbiolo-like wine without the headache will be a triumph.  Getting some of Malbec's upright growth and juiciness would be awesome!  Whether I can locate a good mother vine remains to be seen!  I suspect one of my stumps is male based on what the flower clusters look like on cuttings I have budded out.  I have my '29 King's Landing' V. aestivalis from Hampton, VA, growing at nearby Chrysalis Vineyards, so it will probably get pollen first.

     If your in the Leesburg area, stop on by!


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Back at it in Virginia!

Stranger than fiction is life, but here I am in Amherst County, VA, back in the same house I left in 2014, this time as a tenant in exchange for care of the vineyards.  It remains to be seen how this works out or where it leads, but something brought me back here and it seems to have been the call of the vine.  Let's see if we can have some FUN with it this time!

Cheers to All!  Watch for the Central Virginia Grape Doctor!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Seeds & wine of the Wooster, Ohio, V. aestivalis var. bicolor fruit

Well, I finally got the fruit fermenting that I collected as described in my last post!  Here are the cleaned seeds at the same scale:

It is very clear that the UU seeds are much larger than the Oak Hill/Highland seeds which reflects the berry sizes that I mentioned in the last post.  Of course, this is enough seed to plant an acre vineyard!  But I have the seeds and can now grow a diverse population of these vines where ever I want!

To clean the seeds I made some very small batch wines of the fruit.  Wild aestivalis fruit takes some water and sugar to dilute the acid then get the Brix back up for sufficient alcohol.  The wine gets light colored in the process, but these vines yielded wine that is about like Pinot Noir in color depth and very much like Norton in flavor with much stronger tannin structure.

The wine is still fermenting along at a good clip and is still sweet, so I expect the dry wine to be rather raspy in mouth feel.  All in all, I have to rate the grapes very high in their potential to mother excellent Norton-like hybrid seedlings.  A cross with Chambourcin will be attempted on them next Spring if I am able!

Keep up the great work!  You've all done very well!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Two Beauties from Northeast Ohio

           Well, a grape hunter doesn't go anywhere the wild vine grows and misses much.  Since relocating to Wooster, Ohio, for an unknown duration, I have been watching God's vineyard out my car windows and noticed two superb Vitis aestivalis var. bicolor vines essentially in my back yard (if a person has a back yard in an apartment!).  These potential mother vines have quite a bit of difference in their fruit.  Let me introduce them:

The Unitarian Universalist (UU) Fellowship of Wayne County
Vitis aesitvalis var. bicolor

The Oak Hill & Highland (OH&H) Vitis aesitvalis var. bicolor

Do you notice something right off?  Yes!  They both have FOUR clusters per shoot!   While this was not unusual in the vineyard it is not all that common for wild vines in the woods.  It is a very important trait in a wild mother vine because it usually carries through to hybrid offspring, and when self-fertility is bred in this leads to higher crop loads.

Now notice the cluster shapes.  The UU bicolor has cylindrical clusters common in Vitis aesitvalis, whereas the OH&H bicolor has smaller, irregular clusters tending toward conical.  The UU bicolor also has slightly larger berries than the OH&H vine.  The flavor of the berries are not radically different, and both have a better tannin content that the Blue Ridge Vitis aesitvalis var. bicolor did in general.  The seed coats are particularly well endowed in mouth-filling phenolics.  Both will be superb breeding vines to combine with large berry and cluster, self fertile, French hybrids like Chambourcin, Villard Blanc and Colobel to bring their superior traits back into the Norton flavor profile - with better cold hardiness to boot!

Let me leave you with some more eye candy from these vines!

UU bicolor

 Beautiful grape rootworm "lacing" of these leaves.  Note the different colors of the leaf surfaces - green above, waxy bluish green below.

OH&H bicolor

Enjoy!  And thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, August 21, 2016


      I'm back at it!  This will be the new home of all things North American summer grape (Vitis ├Žstivalis) from the initial perspective of ten years at Chateau Z Vineyard.  I hope to get most of my summer grape breeding information from 2003-2013 back on line and provide a place for observations about North America's hope for a sustainable viticulture that does not depend so heavily on fungicides, insecticides, herbicides and other pesticides and off-farm inputs in order to produce grapes for juice, jelly, and wine of "Euro-Cal" quality.  We can do this!  We in eastern North America live among the wild stock needed to move North American viticulture along in a direction of wisdom and knowledge instead of continuing to force it into the Old World traditions of fashion and exclusion.  No industry insider will believe it is possible or worthy of trial until it is already done.  The process started itself at the time of the Revolutionary War with the accident of the Red Bland grape found on Virginia's Eastern Shore (and other accidents of the time, followed by Dr. Norton's grape).  This evidence was almost missed save for a few observant lovers of the vine who NOTICED.  Let's see if we can notice our way into an entirely new way of thinking about our wild grapes in this new century.  It is not really new, we just forgot to go to the library and see what was done before we were born! 
     What is more exciting is that now we have the science of genetics on our side that is revealing all sorts of amazing things about all life on Earth.  Grapes are no exception and with the cost of analysis dropping quickly it is believed that soon we will be able to afford very detailed analysis at the hobby level.  What an amazing thing to consider from the nineteenth century perspective of the big names in American viticulture: Munson, Hedrick, Jaeger, the Bushbergs, Norton, Prince and others.  They would never have dreamed of the things that be told of an infant vine from a sample of its green tissue.  Here we sit, however, on the edge of great change.

More to come, soon!     - C. Ambers, previously of Chateau Z Vineyard

Vitis aestivalis var. bicolor from near Polk, Ohio, and grown in Virginia.  Not the bicolor leaves (top and bottom sides), huge leaves, thickness, leatheriness, and blue waxy bloom on the leaf undersides.  Many, many more images to come!