A couple months ago, we had soil (and all things wine) extraordinaire, Dave Bos, come out to our vineyards to talk dirty to us. He spoke with our staff on the value of high-quality soil, soil composition and how it affects our plant growth, grape development and ultimately, how much it matters for quality wine. It was very enlightening! Then last week, he was so kind to come out again to teach us about the actual plant growth itself, the lifecycle of vinifera grapes. We learned a ton and I wanted to share a recap of that here.
The health of our vines depends directly on the health of the soil. Our focus is on treating the soil with care so that it can provide solid vine growth. Healthy land means happier vines which translates to higher quality grapes. Each of our vines is handled individually 10-12 times per year, which means that they get a lot of personal attention. If we didn’t pay such close attention to our vines, they would naturally grow into a bushy mess of leaves and branches. Meticulous pruning helps the vines stay nice and organized with their energy focused on growing impeccable grapes.
The soil we have is sandy loam. Sandy loam is in between sand and silt in the soil texture triangle.
Sandy loam is porous, so it drains easily, which is important here due to the amount of rain we do get. The soil structure will and can change the growth of the vines. When combined with other healthy biodiverse strategies, the entire environment, which makes up the terroir, becomes energized to produce better quality grapes, that stand out in the wine. We believe it's one of the reasons that BHV produces outstanding wines year after year.
Grapevines are perennial plants, meaning that they grow in spring, bloom over summer, then die back over the winter months, and then repeats its cycle from its rootstock the following spring. I found this diagram of the yearly lifecycle of a grapevine from Wine Folly. I love it!
Depending on the weather, bud break here typically starts mid-June and this is where 100% of the vine is focused on growing. Then it will self-pollinate and flower where we will remove the leaves from the fruit zone to enhance direct sun exposure to the fruit, then fruit set (grapes) and then veraison (the grapes will change color and sweeten). Once veraison starts, 100% of the plant’s energy will move toward veraison and the vines themselves will quit growing. We are constantly pruning our vines (hedging, removing suckers, leafing) to keep the energy where it needs to be. We’ve had a cool and rainy season so far, so bud break was a bit behind schedule. But the good news is, veraison is what determines harvest, not bud break. So, fingers crossed for a long and hot fall!
As a commitment to preserving the environment, Bowers Harbor Vineyards recently invested in a solar energy system, installed by Harvest Energy Solutions.
When Spencer Stegenga, proprietor of Bowers Harbor Vineyards, looks to the future he wants the best for his sons and future generations. He has been diligent to do his part and willing to invest in environmentally friendly practices to protect the land and waterways around the family business. “We have been committed to the most environmentally friendly practices in our vineyards since we opened in 1991; we compost, recycle, carpool and create habitats for numerous creatures on our property” states Stegenga.
As Bowers Harbor Vineyards celebrates their 25th anniversary, they have taken their environmental practices up a level. Stegenga mentions, “The tasting room is now entirely powered by the new solar panels installed on the property. It was the logical next step to our commitment to green and friendly energy solutions here at Bowers Harbor Vineyards.”
Harvest Energy, a Michigan-based solar energy distributor, installed the 18kW rooftop system that supports the energy used in the tasting room. “We truly enjoy working with the fruit growers (and wineries) in Michigan to design a solar energy system that meets their needs,” said Mark Olinyk, President and CEO of Harvest Energy Solutions.
Bowers Harbor Vineyards is Environmentally Verified in both Farmstead Management and Crop and Soils by the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program. The Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program is an innovative, proactive and voluntary program that helps farms of all sizes and commodities voluntarily prevent or minimize agricultural pollution risks.
With all of the green efforts and the installation of the new solar panels, Bowers Harbor Vineyards is now able to provide a completely sustainable product, from grapes to glass.
Bowers Harbor Vineyards' own proprietor, Spencer Stegenga, is trying to strengthen Michigan's clean energy commitment. In a letter sent to Representative Larry Inman, Representative Aric Nesbitt and Senator Mike Nofs, Spencer and fellow northern Michigan business owners, Marie Dalese (Chateau Chantal) and Justin Rashid (American Spoon Foods, Inc.), spoke about the importance of the clean energy movement in Michigan.
Here is an excerpt:
If clean renewable energy goals disappear, so will the progress Michigan businesses have made. Through energy efficiency, businesses are saving money on their utility bills, meaning they can create jobs, expand and continue to invest in our state. And for families, energy efficiency means we get to keep more of our hard-earned money.