Fumie's Sphere

Insights into the worlds of winemaking and nature

Songbirds November 21, 2018

The very hot and very dry summer came to an end in the middle of August when we got over 5 inches of rain within a few days. The heat continued, but the rain made a comeback to my rain gauge from time to time. A hot and dry summer is good for the grapes, but when it became rather droughty, it brought a different kind of concern to the grape growers, myself included. So, it was a welcome change to see some rain every now and then. As the grapes were already well underway to early harvest due to the mid-summer heat, that also kept the disease pressure low; occasional rainy days even felt refreshing following the extremely hot period.

At the beginning of September the rain went away somehow, and it started to dry out again. I recalled the beautiful fall weather of last year – sunny and much warmer than normal temperatures – which brought us a great harvest time. After a soggy summer, it appeared as if we’d be reliving the true summer of 2017. I started to prepare for the harvest, which was for sure to come earlier this year, without much doubt to have the same sort of harvest time as last year, based on the dry summer we’d had.

The changes happened when the remnant of tropical systems dumped the moisture in the middle of September. It was not necessarily rain, but high humidity in the forms of dews, mists and fogs all the time. There were not many occasions for the grapes to dry out; the excessive moisture promotes the growth of the spoilage microorganisms, namely bunch rot, aka botrytis, and downy mildew. Now we had to forget about the low disease pressure: we’ve got to do something! Luckily the grapes were ripening quickly so we started our harvest. Diamond came in first (if you are a fan of Evening Glow and/or Fialka, this variety gives the flavor you love), and Maréchal Foch and Pinot Noir followed.

October 2018 turned out to be another memorable month, to say the least, in which we weathered two totally separate seasons in just one month. The first half was more or less like summer, while the latter half brought a sure taste of winter. Rain also prevailed throughout the month. We tried to move along as much as we could before the spread of the diseases would become a serious threat to the grapes.

One day when I walked out from the winery barn to head back to the house, I heard a clear musical whistle in the backyard. Oh, a White-throated Sparrow! I instantly stopped to look toward the brush where the voice came from. It was another gray damp day in the first week of October. The whistle was repeated a few times then quiet down. White-throated Sparrows appear in spring when we have wet weather before trees bud out around here. They always seem to be busy feeding on the leftover seeds from the previous year, and somehow move away when the sun gets higher in the blue sky as the season progresses into summer. The misty October afternoon resembled the rainy spring weather in which I’m used to seeing them. I heard their song time to time though never caught them in sight.

We finished our harvest on October 14th and were busy processing the grapes the following day. I was a little nervous as a storm was called for in the afternoon – when we crush and press the grapes, we have to leave the front door of the winery barn wide open. The winds picked up gradually, and by early afternoon stormy looking clouds filled the sky that appeared to be getting ready to come down. I heard the distant roar over the Lake. “Must be the cold front approaching,” I thought as I’d had the same experience in the past. Fortunately, it never poured here while we were working. By shortly after sunset we finished cleaning and closed the door. I felt relieved.

The cold front swapped the season from summer to winter overnight, and it remained wet and chilly the rest of the month. I started to see Northern Juncos frequently in the yard who are messengers of the coming winter. Bluebirds were often on the power wires – do you know we have year-round bluebirds here? White-throated Sparrows were still heard in the brush in the cold rain along with the familiar voices of Cardinals, House Finches and Common Flickers.

While I waited for the foliage, the winds ripped a lot of leaves from the trees this fall. My backyard was no exception as the brush turned bare gradually as I walked back and forth between the buildings everyday. One moment I came to a halt to look around the brush – I hadn’t heard the clear whistles for a few days. It was the last week of October under the gray sky that was such an accustomed scene by then. “Maybe they left,” I thought. “I don’t know where they overwinter, but they have a place to go.”  It felt like the chilly mist was coming in from the Lake. “I’ll see you again in the spring rain.” It was my promise to the Songbirds for sure to return next year.

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Bush Roses November 4, 2017

Filed under: At The Winery,Nature — Thorpe Vineyard @ 12:05 am
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This has been a rough year for the bush roses around our Tasting Room. After the balmy winter and spring, the deceptive summer followed with lots of cool rainy days. Then when the flower buds grew large enough for the blossoms any day, deer ate most of them one night. I was outraged. Mildew from the prolonged excessive rain defoliated many of them despite my fungicide sprays. “I’ve never seen them this miserable,” I thought, dispirited all summer long from the obvious certainty that I would lose them after this season.

September seemed to have turned the things around. The sunny days and comfortably warm, occasionally very summery, temperatures were back to our region. The grapes wasted no time taking advantage of the nice weather – and so did the bush roses. By the time October arrived there were a number of new clean shoots developing, and eventually the flower buds were forming on the top of them. “If they won’t get frosted, they might survive.” I started to have some hope in my mind.

Brilliant October blossoms on the Bush Roses

Last weekend I had two young couples visiting our Tasting Room together. I learned that they were sisters and their husbands as they walked in and we started to chat. One moment I just glanced outside the picture window because something moved in my sight. One of the sisters was a little behind – she was smelling the roses that had just started to bloom a few days ago. “Beautiful!” She rushed in with a glowing smile and quickly joined our conversation. It was another mild sunny day for late October, and perhaps the best day we had for the bush roses this year.

 

Annular Solar Eclipse of May 1994 March 28, 2017

Filed under: Nature — Thorpe Vineyard @ 12:53 am
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Believe it or not, there was an annular solar eclipse visible from right here on May 10, 1994.  I was out of college a few years prior to it, and the construction of our current Tasting Room was nearing its completion. Our season used to start on Memorial Day weekend so it was still pretty quiet around here that time of the year, especially on weekdays. I was working in the wine cellar waiting for the totality of the eclipse. I had an access to a welder’s protective lens — a piece of very deeply tinted glass that was meant for being installed on a welder’s helmet to keep their vision safe from the sparks they would produce while working in their shop. It was dark enough to safely observe the sun as well. I walked in and out from the tank room to the driveway every so often while working on the wine to follow the progress of the eclipse with the piece of the glass in my hand.  When the totality arrived, I saw the thin ring of the sun through the lens and the shadows of myself on the gravel. A few days later I wrote the following for the memorable moment I was fortunate to have. Now another solar eclipse is coming this August, and I will of course use the same piece of the glass to observe the sun again.

 

annular_eclipse.pngAnnular Solar Eclipse

Beneath the sky
in the marvelous shine
the shadows are in layers
as they move.
At high noon
I look up at the phenomenon,
that, perhaps,
happens only once
in my lifetime here.

 

Crescent Moon January 14, 2016

The first invasion of the polar vortex of the season to Northeast was taking place earlier this week. The frigid air mass travels over the open water of the Great Lakes causing the formation of significant lake effect snow bands. If you are on the leeward of this air flow, you’d be getting feet of snow in no time.

Many of you ask us how often we get buried in the deep snow after seeing our proximity to Lake Ontario while visiting our Tasting Room. The answer is “not much”; at least not as often as you might expect.

The heavy snow fall occurs most often when the air travels the longest fetch of the Lakes: longer the path, more moisture supply for the snow bands from the Lakes. Thus typically the heaviest lake effect snow episodes occur with the westerly airflow to the east of the Lakes. So for us here the lake effect snow becomes an issue when the wind direction changes more toward northwest.

This Monday the weather pattern was a textbook case of the heavy lake effect snow to the east of the Lakes behind a strong arctic cold front. I saw the Lake Ontario band over the Lake a little offshore from us with lots of whitecaps surging toward the shoreline. I turned back to the vineyards and saw the Lake Erie band above the horizon. In between there was sunshine all day long with a few stray clouds every now and then though it was windy and pretty cold.

crescentmoonAt the end of the day the thin Crescent Moon was above the Drumlin when I walked out to pick up the day. The sun was already behind the Drumlin and the western sky was bright in the evening glow from the horizon to the mid sky. The Moon appeared to have started to be laid back — when you see a crescent moon, it looks either standing up straight in fall or laid back in spring, or in the transition phases in between. In the piercing west winds in the middle of the lake effect snow bands I was confident to have found a sign of the coming spring.

 

Fialka Story April 29, 2015

Filed under: At The Winery — Thorpe Vineyard @ 8:34 pm
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“Trillium” was created by the request for the sweeter styled wines, and was first released in July, 1994 when the construction of our Wine Shop was completed. Its abundant flavor of fresh grapes and mild sweeter taste gained the popularity very quickly, and it was sold out by the end of 1994.

In July 1995 a mail arrived from a winery in Midwest claiming that the name “Trillium” was theirs as they had registered that name as a trade mark of one of their wines. After a short debate we decided to change the name of this beloved wine. We asked for a suggestion of a new name for this wine through our newsletters as a form of “contest” — if we chose the name you gave to us, you’d get a free case of the wine with the new label!

FialkaDuring the holiday season of 1995 Fumie’s old college professor visited us with his family and one of her classmates. When he walked in, he immediately saw the bottle of Trillium on display on our tasting counter. He took it in his hands and said, “So, is this the troubled wine?” He already knew about the debate from the newsletter we’d mailed out. As soon as he said so, his cousin from Slovakia exclaimed, “Oh, that’s Fialka!” We all turned our heads toward him as the name he yelled sounded very nice for a name of the wine. We told him to officially write the name down onto a piece of paper that we had ready for the visitors to write in their suggested new names for the wine. He told us that the illustration of the trilliums on the label reminded him of the flowers they call “fialka” in Slovakia. Following spring when we had the new labels ready, he took a case of the brand new Fialka wine back home to Slovakia.

Over the years we’ve learned that “fialka” means “violet” in English, and fairly common in the Slavic languages such as Slovak, Russian, Ukrainian, etc. If you have the relatives or friends who came from that direction, ask them if they know the word and its meaning. Most likely they do!

The composition of Fialka has remained basically the same over these years. Diamond contributes the abundant fresh grape taste and flavor while Catawba gives it the spiciness and good acid to counterpart the sweetness. Cayuga White then somehow mediates the entire package to the subtle mildness — that’s the way we feel. The name “Trillium” was originally chosen as the wine was a blend of these three varieties about the same portion of each.

Now you’ve got the story, so get a bottle or two to bring back home to enjoy!

 

Our Story March 20, 2015

Filed under: At The Winery — Thorpe Vineyard @ 9:20 pm
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The Barn of Straubing Vineyard under construction in 1978

The Barn of Straubing Vineyard under construction in 1978

Bob Straubing of Newark, New York, was a great wine aficionado as well as an amateur winemaker all his life that motivated him to create his own winery. He prepared one acre out of 50 acres of his newly purchased property in East Bay area in Wayne County, New York, for planting grape vines. His first planting consisted of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon on half of the cultivated soil in 1978. The following year he planted Cayuga White on the other half. Soon he realized that Cabernet Sauvignon would not grow well in his vineyard so he replaced them with Riesling. He named his new venture Straubing Vineyard.

As the vines matured, he started making wine using his own grapes. His production soon exceeded the Federal limit of 200 gallons per year for a family so he went to get a license. The birth of the first farm winery in Wayne County took place in 1984. He put his winery for sale in 1988 when he decided to retire to Florida for the winter months.

Fumie Thorpe was born and grew up in Tokyo, Japan, and came to the United States in 1983 to study meteorology at SUNY Oswego. She married to Jock Thorpe, an electrician, in the fall of 1986 while staying in college. When her father came to visit in the summer of 1988, they happened to see Straubing Vineyard for sale. He thought it was interesting, and made an offer to Bob. The deal went through despite the strong opposition of Fumie. It turned out to be the beginning of Thorpe Vineyard.

She became the business owner and the primary workforce while still working for her college degree as Jock had a full time job that prohibited his constant involvement in the operation. She learned everything from scratch; grape growing, winemaking and business practices. The fortunate facts were that she had a strong scientific background as well as having Bob and his long time winemaking friend, Kemp Bloomer, to walk the way through for the first few years of her career. They both had the opportunities to learn some winemaking techniques from Dr. Konstantin Frank. She also frequented the Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva and the Finger Lakes wineries and vineyards to enhance her learning. Their warm hospitality is still deeply appreciated by her.Fialka(2)

In 1991 she completed her meteorology degree with a minor in astronomy. Within a few years another 2 acres of vineyards were planted; expanding the same vinifera varieties, plus red French hybrids, Maréchal Foch and Chancellor. Moore’s Diamond was added in 2007 totaling 3 and half acers of vineyards to date. A good part of the wine currently crafted comes from these homegrown grapes: ever popular varietal Maréchal Foch, Riesling with mineral components enriched by the soil of the vineyards, the most award-winning Fialka whose predominant flavor is derived from Moore’s Diamond. She produces up to 1000 cases of wine per year at the present time.

The business operation has become solely on her own since her divorce in 2008. In the recent years she has brought her long time wish of Sunset Tasting and Starry Starry Night events to reality. Operating a winery was not in the original plan for her life, but it has given her the opportunity to live in a country that was once a dream of this city-born kid. It is truly delightful for her to see the splendid sunset over Lake Ontario and the countless stars shine whenever a clear night arrives. She watches the weather during the day to practice what she mastered in college to manage the grapes. On stormy winter days she might be in her lab to keep track on how the wine is maturing or preparing for the summer events in the coming season. “When no hope was left inside on that starry starry night,” the moment must become a new beginning.

MeatendofOurStory

You are cordially invited to come to experience a good blend
of the wine that reflects this location on our planet Earth and
the Universe that lies beyond us all.

 

 
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