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Tag: Grace Estate

1 Winemaker, 3(+) Questions Continued:

So we continue to ask winemakers their assessment of the long-lasting winter and its possible impacts on the 2014 growing season. In this installment, winemaker Jake Busching of Grace Estate offers opinions.

Jake1. This has been a winter of long-lasting, record-breaking cold weather. This week’s temperatures plunged to below zero in much of Virginia. Are you concerned about stress to the vines? Have you changed vineyard management (i.e. pruning) as a result?

Winter cold has to reach serious extremes (well, by Virginia standards, said the Minnesotan…) to damage grapevines. Most vinifera isn’t damaged until you get down to temperatures close to -4F. Buds go first then damage to the vascular system can occur. Luckily here at my site our low was only -1F. I’ve checked buds in the vines by slicing into them with a knife to see if they are still green following the coldest days we’ve had and so far we are in good shape. Areas of NOVA and all states north of us are going to see bud and cane damage this spring. February 5th, 1996 saw temperatures as low as -22F in areas around Monticello AVA many vineyards were killed down to the snowline that night. A fellow winemaker in NY state reports losses in excess of 80% this spring as they had temperatures around -12F. In that situation you hope the snow was deep enough to shield buds in the trunks so you can start new growth without having to replant an entire vineyard!

The beauty of a cold snowy winter for growers, besides fireside evenings and sledding, is a plentitude of ground water coming into spring and a natural extermination of some vineyard pests. We have bugs like Spotted Wing Drosophila fruit flies and vine diseases like Pierces Disease which are both killed off at repeated temperatures below 7F which means we are going into a vintage where bugs will have to reinvade from the south. Perhaps this will allow vines to recover and put less pressure on us in the fall for protecting our fruit from damage.

We had a very good grapevine growing summer last year. 2013 had lots of moisture and thus, vigor, which allows the vines to uptake and translocate food into storage for use this spring. I am expecting good vine growth and a heavy crop this year, frost willin and the creeks don’t rise…

2. Early bud break is always a concern when it occurs; however, are there worries about a later bud break? What is the optimal time for bud break? (The cherry blossoms are scheduled to bloom much later this year due to the long-lingering winter.)

Bud break has been early for many years now. Back when I started taking care of vines in the mid-nineties budbreak in Chardonnay was expected around April 9th. It is my opinion that bud break doesn’t really happen ‘late’ as the sun always runs on time… I would love to see bud break begin on April 5th every year. However, we’ve lately become accustomed to buds waking up as early as march 19th on some sites which creates weeks of fear of frost damage or even cold damage. The only down side to a normal bud break period is if we have a cool, cloudy summer and our ripening energy is slowed or shadowed in our red wine vineyards. This delaying action can push harvest dates into late October when the vines are naturally shutting down and stopping work on ripening fruit. Then all we have to increase quality is hang time which is mostly dehydration to concentrate fruit flavor.

3. Now that the 2013 harvest is history, how is the 2013 vintage shaping up, and what are the comparisons to past vintages?

Now that my red wines have been racked and my early wines are in bottle, I am happy to say that 2013 was, for the most part, an excellent vintage. The summer long supply of rain had us on the ropes all year until, against all Virginia weather logic, we had a drought through harvest. The result of that weather pattern was early season varieties having slightly less concentration, mid-season varieties being good to very good and late season varieties being excellent. We are looking at red wines with early season elegance and late season structure for 2013. I am looking forward to blending this year and playing mixologist with varieties like Tannat and Petit Verdot. The bottled wines are showing very well with nice acid to mouthfeel balance and beautiful floral qualities. I finally made a rose that I respect in 2013 as well from some early pick Merlot with a bled lot of Tannat added for depth and complexity.

Plan a visit to Grace Estate to taste Jake’s excellent wines; in fact, we did just that this past weekend. What were our favorites? Check in next time to find out. If you get to Grace Estate before our next post, mention to Jake that Virginia Wine Time sent you!

Catching Up With Jake Busching

Winemaker Jake Busching established a reputation for crafting excellent wines at Pollak Vineyards. Jake is now the winemaker at Grace Estate, the winery associated with Mt. Juliet Vineyard. We recently met with Jake to chat about his new venture and of course, to sample the wines at Grace Estate.
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On a lovely morning (and yes with cicadas at full throttle), Jake gave us a driving tour of the Mt Juliet vineyard that earned its reputation for being one of the first to widely plant Viognier. In addition, chardonnay and all of the Bordeaux red varietals are grown in the vineyard. One of Jake’s primary tasks upon arrival at the estate was to rehabilitate the vineyard, and this included better management of the vigor in the vineyard and replacing vines that were no longer productive. An experimental vineyard now grows Chenin Blanc and Pinotage. Other new plantings include Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris. The goal is to maximize the vineyard’s site that boasts elevations of between 750 and 1000 feet.
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From the vineyard, Jake drove us to the very peak of the estate where we beheld a breathtaking view of the mountains, valleys, and everything else in between. It was truly stunning to behold! An unoccupied mansion overlooks the view, and this may indeed be used in the future as a tasting or events facility. This may be the ultimate destination to view fall colors, too.

Jake's truck was damaged by Hurricane Sandy and now provides an outback-feel when guests are given a tour of the Mt. Juliet Vineyard.

Jake’s truck was damaged by Hurricane Sandy and now provides an outback-feel when guests are given a tour of the Mt. Juliet Vineyard.


Our next stop was the barrel room, and Jake allowed a chance to preview upcoming 2012 releases. Look for several of these to be hitmakers at Grace Estate. The 2012 Chardonnay, aged in French oak barrels, was an immediate favorite of mine. It possessed characteristic pear and apple notes with a fuller mouth feel and softer oak nuances to create a classic Old World Chardonnay. We also got a sample of the evolving red wines. My own faves included the Merlot that Jake is actually aging in two barrels—neutral oak and newer oak barrels. These will be blended to produce the ultimate product—a fruity yet more complex Merlot with earthy/spicy elements. My other favorites included the Petit Verdot and a Tannat complete with chewy tannins. Paul enjoyed the Merlot (of course) as well as the Petit Verdot, but he was also intrigued with the Malbec and its violet notes.
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Of course, we also got to taste the current releases being poured in the tasting room. This is the time of year when we seek out summer wines, and the steel fermented 2012 Viognier seemed destined for the wine rack. Floral aromas, peach notes and a crisp feel beg for a shellfish dinner. Our friend Michael Tyler, the lover of sweeter wines, would prefer the off dry 2010 Le Gras Cuve, a fruity blend of Chardonnay, Viognier and Petit Manseng. Strip steaks on the grill? The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon should fit the bill. Blended with 20% Merlot, this one offers dark fruit flavors, tobacco notes, and a lengthy finish. Paul replenished his stock of 3, the result of Jake Busching’s collaboration with Mathieu Finot of King Family Vineyard and Emily Pelton of Veritas. In addition to the 2010 vintage of 3 (a blend of 1/3 Merlot, 1/3 Petit Verdot, and 1/3 Cabernet Franc), Paul nabbed a bottle of the 2012 vintage that is white. This blend includes 1/3 Viognier, 1/3 Chardonnay, and 1/3 Petit Manseng.
A re-purposed silo located off of the tasting room provides Jake and guests with a zen-like environment where they appreciate wine and blue skies.

A re-purposed silo located off of the tasting room provides Jake and guests with a zen-like environment where they appreciate wine and blue skies.


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We are always impressed with Jake Busching’s passion for winemaking, and we envision great things at Grace Estate with Jake at the helm. We intend to return to Grace Estate to stay updated on the latest developments and wine releases. In the meantime, plan a visit to Grace Estate, and mention that Virginia Wine time sent you.

Another Take on the 2012 Harvest

jakeJake Busching earned a reputation as an excellent winemaker while at the helm of Pollak Vineyards. He is now the winemaker at a new venture called Grace Estate Winery that will open in April of this year. Grace Estate Winery is also the home of the heralded Mt. Juliet Vineyard that is located in Crozet. The winery is located in the Monticello AVA. We asked Busching to offer an early assessment of the 2012 vintage.

1. How would you describe the 2012 growing season overall?

2012 was a peculiar year; it was an early, yet cool spring, and a blazing hot dry summer, followed by intermittent rains during harvest. I didn’t like it. There were too many odd variables within a given vintage including: 1) too close to frosting early; 2) too close to drought late; 3) July Derecho winds, and 4) too close to hurricane rains on ripe fruit. The plants seemed confused. Timing for bloom was off in the reds. Shoot growth was slow. And overall the cropload was down about 30% based purely on berry size.

2. In particular, how was the season for white grapes?

For the whites all of this strange weather had less effect than I would have thought. The aromatics are rich and the mouthfeel is lush. Acid was lower than I like but that is true in nearly every vintage.

3. And what about the red grapes?

The reds had more of a reaction to the vintage. Tannins are in short supply in almost all of the reds. Color isn’t bad but not as deep as I like due to sun intensity. The wines are good and better than many vintages I’ve worked; time will cure most of my rather exacting concerns. I think on a consumer level the wines will be received as being quite good.

4. What will be the hallmarks of the 2012 wines?

For the wines from Mount Juliet vineyards, Viognier and Chardonnay are both showing very well. The Merlot and Tannat are my top reds this year.

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