TWC Vineyard Grape Harvest
Get your tickets for the Saturday, 14-August, TWC Grape Stomp and Paella Dinner event and do your best Lucy stomping the grapes imitation.
Those of you who have visited or even driven by Texas Wine Collective probably noticed grape vines growing near Hwy 290, in front of the three Logo tanks at the entrance to the tasting room and patio area. These are mostly Black Spanish, or Lenoir, vines, a hybrid grape that grows well in the hot, more humid climates of Texas. The vines were planted in 2013 by folks from Lost Oak Winery, one of our partner/owners, and were intended to be a “show” vineyard, a garden really, so that visitors could see and appreciate grapevines.
Since 2016, the grapes from these vines have been harvested with the goal of producing a port-style wine, a Portejas, in collaboration with Todd Webster, winemaker at Brennan Vineyards. The grapes harvested in 2016 were of poor quality and were not used in winemaking. However, in 2017, nearly 1,000 lbs of grapes were harvested and eventually combined with Ruby Cabernet from Brennan Vineyards to produce a 4.0 Cellars Portejas. In 2018, 1,100 lbs of fruit were harvested. In 2019, a smaller yield of 550 lbs was collected. And, in 2020, over 1,000 lbs were harvested. These harvests were made into wine and are now barrel aging at Brennan Vineyards.
As the 2021 harvest approaches, it seems appropriate to update Carl’s Corner readers. In 2019, 14 dead Black Spanish vines were replaced with Tannat vines. In 2020, 10 dead Black Spanish vines were replaced with Tempranillo vines. All of these replacement vines, except one, have flourished. Some Tannat grapes will be harvested this August and added to the Black Spanish fruit. The Tempranillo vines did not produce any clusters of fruit in this first year. After using some of the fruit for the TWC Grape Stomp Event on 14-August, it is hoped that about 700-800 lbs of fruit can be harvested in mid-August.
The unusually wet weather in 2021 has caused problems in the vineyard. Moisture and heat can really enhance the growth of fungal diseases on the vines and grapes. This has required several extra applications of fungicide spray to control infections of downy mildew and black rot (like what causes rose leaves to have black spots).
In addition to the fungal disease pressure, all the rain caused excessive canopy growth from the vines that created the need for significant hedging to keep the vines under control, focused on fruit development rather than green growth, and keep the fruiting zone open for air flow, sun exposure, and fungicide spray accessibility. After one major hedging effort, someone commented that all the removed leaves and stems on the vineyard floor looked like a giant “tossed green salad.” In essence, the vines just became huge, aggressive “weeds” during this warm, rainy summer.
We will soon perform a fruit triage and remove clusters that have any significant damage from fungal disease and/or have little chance of developing and ripening by harvest time. Grape sugar levels will also be checked using a simple, hand-held refractometer instrument. This will help determine the appropriate time to harvest by measuring when grape sugar levels reach a targeted 22-25 degrees Brix (essentially 22-25% sugar). As of Thursday, 22-Jul, the Brix levels were in the 14 degree range, and on Tuesday, 03-Aug, the Brix levels were 17, indicating a steady approach to harvest time.
Eventually a harvest date will be set, volunteers will be invited to help, and fruit clusters will be cut from the vines and loaded into a ½ ton plastic picking bin. This year the grapes will be delivered to Adega Vinho in Stonewall where they will be destemmed, crushed, and inoculated with the appropriate yeast culture to begin fermentation. This 2021 cuvée will be placed in barrel and settled in a refrigerated warehouse for aging.
After the busy 2021 harvest season, a tasting and blending session with Todd Webster at Brennan Vineyards is planned to develop a new Portejas wine from the past several 4.0 Cellars/TWC vintages. This will involve tastings to determine adjustments to the optimum alcohol level, preferred sweetness, and whether wine from other grapes needs to be added for volume and flavor. A final blend will be made in tank, and after bottles and labels are ordered and delivered, a new TWC Portejas will be bottled and readied for introduction in the tasting room.
This all requires a lot of work, but certainly is a labor of love. Stop by and take a look at the TWC Vineyard over the next week or so to see the grapes before the harvest. If you want to know more about the process of vineyard management, harvest, and eventual production of TWC Protejas, check out these former Carl’s Corner posts.
Harvesting 4.0 Cellars Grapes – 2020 19-Aug-2020
Preparing for 4.0 Cellars Grape Harvest 2020 05-Aug-2020
4.0 Cellars Grape Harvest 2019 15-Aug--2019