Seasons of the Vine: Changing of the Grape and New Winery Review

changing-grapesReports started in late July of veraison being observed earlier than usual at area vineyards.

Veraison [vay-ray-ZON], which means the “change of color of the grape berries,” is the visual representation of the transition from berry growth to berry ripening. A lot happens during this phase: berries increase in size, the skins get thinner and seeds begin to ripen, sugar development begins within the berry and as that occurs, the acid content of the grape also shifts and decreases. It is approximately six to eight weeks between veraison and harvest.

Vineyard management is critical during this time to ensure perfect ripening. The vine canopy (the amount of leaves and shoots) is checked to ensure there is an optimal amount of light and air getting to the clusters. A “green drop”—or removal of some unripe clusters—may be done to ensure a balanced crop load per vine.

Tissue samples—or petiole analysis (analysis of the stems of the grape leaves to determine if the vines have the proper amount of nitrogen, potassium and phosphate)—is often repeated. This analysis, which is typically done three times in a season—at bloom, during veraison and just prior to harvest—helps determine what adjustments the grower needs to make to the soil or crops for the
following growing season.

At nearby Whitewater Wines, located outside Plainview in the bluff country of Southeast Minnesota, Eric Hanlon, who has been growing grapes here for over 16 years, says this is the earliest grape harvest he has experienced. Onset of color change began a full three weeks earlier than usual. With an early growing season, Hanlon notes that “there should be no problem developing full sugars and tannins, although production operations will need to work with potentially warmer temperatures during fermentation.”

With an early veraison, grapes have the potential to be on the vine longer than usual. This affects the sugar levels and tannins so adjustments must be made, like those referenced by Hanlon, to ensure that the longer season doesn’t alter the grapes to such a degree that the wine is undrinkable.

Visiting a winery offers an opportunity to learn about a particular portfolio of wines, how they are crafted and what the early veraison means to that vineyard this year.


New winery review
Villa Bellezza: Great grapes, great wines

A newcomer on the winery scene is luxurious Villa Bellezza in Lake Pepin, Wisc. With three vineyards near their astounding, Mediterranean-style tasting room and additional grapes for their wines supplied by vineyards in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa, Villa Bellezza is truly a regional winery.

Their two and a half acre Casa Della Pantera vineyard is named after the owners’ home outside Stockholm, Wisc. The name, which literally translates as “House of the Panther,” derives from a lone yellow mountain lion that has been sighted for years in this bluff area.

Vines here were planted mostly on south and west facing slopes over ten years ago. Owners Derick and Julianne Dahlen planted these vines with their own two hands and recruited their five daughters to haul water before the vineyard was irrigated. With 1,400 total vines, this vineyard produces Frontenac, St. Pepin and Prairie Star.

Zitella Pietra vineyard, another two and a half acre plot, is located north of Villa Bellezza in Maiden Rock, Wisc. It is planted at a higher elevation (approximately 1,000 feet) on southfacing, rolling land. The 1,400 vines here are about 20 years old and are producing Foch, Marquette, St. Pepin, Prairie Star, LaCrescent, Frontenac Gris and Frontenac Blanc.

Encircling the grounds of the winerytasting room complex one finds Villa Bellezza’s newest vineyard, a full seven acres. Vines here were planted just two to three years ago with more to be added. Rows are planted north to south to maximize radiation and heat. The 4,000 vines here are currently producing Foch, Marquette, St. Pepin, Prairie Star, LaCrescent, Frontenac Gris and Frontenac Blanc.

From vineyard management to wine making and architectural design, Villa Bellezza’s team of talented individuals is sure to make this a successful enterprise and attention-grabbing destination.