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!