Occasionally we like to write short articles and thoughts here is where you will find them.
Shoots & Suckers
By Mike Nierychlo July 2, 2020
It is often assumed that owning a vineyard and winery through the summer months is all romance, the distant sound of a strummed mandolin, dancing in slow motion, fine food and hours spent sipping wine while basking in the warm sun. Not quite….
….the chaos of nature waits for no one!
As the vines burst to life in the latter part of spring it is our responsibility as the vineyard worker, to guide and steward each and every vine to their full potential in hopes of fully ripening a balanced crop destined to make great wine. One of the many number of tasks we are currently doing is called shoot thinning and suckering. This isn’t a one-time job; this is a task that needs care and attention all summer long. In the spring when all of the new buds burst open, some are positioned exactly where you want them, many though, burst in every other direction and need to be removed to protect those that will be the most fruitful. We pay close attention to each and every vine and individual fruitful cane, constantly removing little new shoots and suckers that will try to pull energy away from those of which will reap the greatest reward. If left to their own devices, the grape vine grows in utter chaos and stands virtually no chance of ripening its’ potentially delicious crop.
I consider myself a pretty ambitious individual with sometimes more energy than I know what to do with. I suppose that I need to be, in order to build, steward and operate this incredible little vineyard and winery that we call home. Over the past seven years of bringing this operation to life, I have learned countless lessons, but one ongoing lesson in particular stands out above the rest and has been right in front of me the whole time.
During our first few years after purchasing the property - restoring the land, building the winery and seeing some success in what we were accomplishing - my ambitions would burst out here and there with new ideas. Often this came in the form of possible expansion, finding more land to grow more grapes, or purchasing more grapes to make more wine. And this wasn’t just self-inflicted, I would often be asked by other business people: When are you going to do more, make more, grow more?
After a number of pursuits that failed to actualize or come to fruition, something in my mindset shifted and I asked myself some questions: The constant pursuit of “more” seemed like a lot of extra work and for what reason? Was it worth all of the effort? To what end? Or is there something better? The gears in my head began to turn.
Since day one here at Emandare, our goal has been to craft very high quality wine through what is known as low-intervention techniques. These techniques involve very thoughtful stewardship in our vineyard and winery through the constant pursuit of less, not more. Less inputs in the vineyard, less additives in the winery, not more. If this was my core philosophy for growing and making wine, why wasn’t it the core of our business or who I am as a person? DING! (Cue cartoon light bulb above my head.)
This was a profound realization and one that has breathed incredible new life into my spirit. We have discovered a genuine sense of contentment with all that we have and decided to pursue excellence in everything that is within our 8.5-acre fence line. Instead of worrying about the nagging idea of “more” we are completely invigorated with fine-tuning the beauty, efficiencies and greatness of what is already here. The workload hasn’t really changed but the goals, directions and perspectives have completely shifted, making every day very exciting.
Over the last couple of years, this has lead to countless little tweaks and to two new additions we are really excited about. Both of these additions are rooted in our genuine love for people and a desire to share the beauty of this place with those who will breathe a peaceful sigh as they set foot onto our vineyard.
First, is our intimate and educational tour and tasting called Experience Emandare. It is my pleasure to personally tour groups through the vineyard to share our story and philosophy which concludes with an interactive wine tasting in our private, glass-walled tasting space paired with a locally produced cheese and charcuterie platter.
Second is our brand new accommodation called “The Tractor Shed Guest House,” a lovely suite situated with the best views on the property, a huge deck, hot tub and all of the amenities you could ask for… a haven of peaceful rest and relaxation. It gets its’ name because the suite is built above our farm equipment storage facility. This new space is allowing for even more organization and efficiency in how we store and treat our tools and equipment.
By remaining focused on what is most fruitful and discarding scattered ambitions that could take away from our core values, not only have we seen vast improvements to the vineyard as a whole, our wine continues to improve. What mental space I would have wasted on the idea of “more” is now freed up to fine tune my abilities as a winemaker, giving me more confidence and room for creativity in my craft.
As I sit here thinning shoots in the vineyard thinking about writing this piece, I can’t help but feel grateful for this newfound perspective. Not only for the impact it has had on our home and business, but also on my own personal growth. By no means is shoot thinning and suckering an easy task. Each decision needs to be made very thoughtfully and carefully to remove what is taking energy away from the most fruitful canes in the lifelong pursuit of making incredible wine.