February 3, 2014–We have a goal to make our Blackbird red wine blend 100% estate grown. Our site, perched so close to the lake on shallow, shale-heavy soil, is an ideal site for ripening red varietals. We have great respect for the carefully-selected Finger Lakes grape growers who currently supply us with Merlot and a bit of Cabernet Franc for Blackbird. But we know our estate-grown Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon have superior flavors, depth and texture. In December, we began preparing a site to be planted with Merlot and Cabernet Franc so that we can achieve our goal of 100% estate grown Blackbird.
We started by having some trees cleared around the perimeter of the vineyard. As long as heavy equipment was already present, we had workers excavate a trench to drain a corner of the vineyard that tends to stay wet after rains. It became clear pretty quickly that the shale underlaying the shallow soil was too hard to break in some spots. So Winemaker Paul Brock rented a jackhammer to break up the solid layers! It required one day of back-breaking work, but will make the vineyard preform much better once its established.
While the trench was being dug and jack-hammered, we got some amazing photos of the subsoil. It’s crumbly and rocky, as we’ve already discovered in other spots around the vineyard. The vines we plant here will struggle due to the rocky conditions, and will produce small quantities of very intense fruit.
The fractured shale reminded me instantly of the photos of steep, rocky vineyards in Germany. My first question to Paul upon seeing it was, “why aren’t we planting Riesling here?” He had been thinking the same thing. So, after the Merlot and Cabernet Franc are planted this spring, we will clear the way for more Riesling to be planted in this vineyard block in the future.