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November 23, 2010

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Ah, the folly and hubris of aping Burgundian vineyard techniques in a completely different environment!

Sorry that it has not worked out so far, through no fault of your own, Leland Mote, and best of luck getting those vines back into shape.

It is rare that such a candid commentary on growing wine is presented. Your methodical approach to cleaning up the vineyard Leland and having the wherewithal to listen to your intuition in regards to what the vineyard needs is refreshing. To paraphrase Rudolph Steiner: Everything one acquires through anthroposophy (free thinking) should after all not be just the appropriation of theoretical knowledge but should always gradually work upon the way we think and feel, leading us even deeper with our heart from the soil to a felt experience of the world of spirit.

Huh?

It's easy after the fact to call a vineyard planting scheme folly. The truth is the development of best practices in a new region always takes time and lots of trial and error. On Long Island we went through numerous methods of training over the years (wide spacing, tight spacing, GDC, High-Wire Cordon etc.) and various site choices before we realized what worked the best. In a new area like the Escarpment, it might take a few more years to find out what the absolute best system is. We need to remember that the pioneers usually take all the arrows..Kudos to Mr. Mote for having the passion and wisdom to persevere.

As for anthroposophy, here is another direct quote from Steiner that perhaps puts this philosophy in perspective:

"You see, when we really study science and history, we must conclude that if people become increasingly strong, they will also become increasingly stupid. If the blonds and blue-eyed people die out, the human race will become increasingly dense if men do not arrive at a form of intelligence that is independent of blondness. Blond hair actually bestows intelligence. . . .It is indeed true that the more the fair individuals die out the more will the instinctive wisdom of humans vanish." (Steiner, 1922, Health and Illness: Volume I. Trans. Maria St. Goar. Spring Valley: Anthroposophic
Press, 1981. p. 86)

I disagree with the comment that Warm Lake was pioneering growing techniques here for Pinot. In the Niagara Escarpment region we have 30 years of experience to draw on from Ontario, 15 miles west. There are 108 vinifera focused wineries working with 16,000 acres of grapes. Vineland Research, Brock University and Niagara College are terrific institutions that have helped the industry and are also working with Cornell.

Warm Lake chose to ignore much of the work and was somehow able to attract a lot of investors who apparently didn't really have time or the interest to be involved in the business. The way the Warm Lake vines were trellised is like nothing else in Ontario or Niagara USA. The fruit was inches from the ground and rows 10' wide. I can only guess the 10' rows were to increase the promotional value of "acres planted". There is a lot of land here and it is relatively inexpensive. The fruit never looked great as they invested minimally in vineyard equipment. Leland had the smarts to recognize something was wrong and he did something about it. I am happy that some of the vineyard assets from the Warm Lake winery were salvaged.

Thanks for the clarification Duncan. Pretty interesting. - sounds like there were many issues at play in that story.

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