Have you ever wondered what it’s like to plant grapevines? I have, and I’m embarrassed to say that it took me 15 years in the wine industry to find out! Luckily, my friend Jessica Youngblood, with whom I serve on the board of the Michigan Wine Collaborative, has planted a vineyard nearby in Ray Township, Michigan. When she advertised the opportunity for volunteers to assist on one of their planting days, I jumped at the chance. The kids and I hopped in the car to go help dig in the dirt at Youngblood Vineyard.
When I asked how they ended up in the grape biz, Jess gave me some family history: She grew up in Washington state, met her husband Dave while they were in college, and they later moved to the Virginia suburbs of Washington D.C. There they fell in love with the wine industry after visiting many Northern Virginia wineries. When the opportunity arose to return to Metro Detroit, where they had a family farm, they jumped at the chance to plant wine grapes. In less than two years, they have planted over 20,000 grapevines on nearly 23 acres of the farm, establishing Youngblood Vineyard as the largest vineyard in Eastern Michigan. Jess’ primary job is to take care of the vines full time: tying, pruning, thinning leaves, checking clusters, and maintaining overall vineyard health. Dave primarily does the planning and construction side of things, such as land clearing, vineyard layout, and trellis construction, though they both do some of everything. Their kids get in on the action, too, pruning, planting, mowing, and fighting for their turn to drive the tractor.
The Youngbloods are growing several cold-hardy hybrid grape cultivars that can survive extreme winter weather fluctuations (which metro Detroit certainly had during the 2014 and 2015 Polar Vortex seasons), including three reds and three whites: Marquette, Frontenac, Petite Pearl, Frontenac Blanc, Prairie Star, and Traminette. (If these grape names don’t sound familiar, just wait—hybrid grape wines are gaining traction and can rival dry, semi-dry, sweet, or dessert wines made with the Vitis vinifera grapes most people are familiar with.) The Youngbloods may sell some of their grapes, but they strategically planted varieties with complementary flavors and structure for when they decide to produce their own label. In conjunction with Michigan State University’s Institute of Agricultural Technology, they also host occasional VESTA (Viticulture & Enology Science & Technology Alliance) workshops, so students looking to gain valuable hands-on vineyard experience should definitely contact them!
Best of all, in addition to being a founding member of the Great Lakes Sustainable Wine Alliance, the vineyard is verified by the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program, which “shows peers and neighbors the high level of commitment to agricultural stewardship and protecting the environment.” Find out more about the MAEAP verification program here: http://www.maeap.org/get_verified.
When my kids and I arrived on a chilly May day to help plant, the Youngbloods provided a quick training session for all of the volunteers, teaching us the correct orientation in which to plant the vines, how to wrestle with the long root system (they kept the roots long instead of trimming them since they had augered holes that were a couple feet rather than just a few inches deep–Jess told me that this would shorten the period until the vines will be ready to produce viable fruit for wine), and how to install the grow tubes that would protect the young vines until they can be trellised. We jumped in with gusto and were able to plant a few rows of vines before my crew had to leave for karate and guitar lessons. We all left dirty and happy, wishing that we could have contributed more. I hope the Youngbloods will let us come back when it’s time for harvest so we can check on the vines we planted and help pick the fruit from the vines Jess and Dave planted in 2016. Most of all, I hope I can “help” them when it comes time for taste-testing their first wines!
We can’t wait to see what’s next for Youngblood Vineyard! While Detroit has a rich history as a beer-producing town, the founders of Motown and the Big Three auto makers probably never would’ve fathomed that there would be a working vineyard only about 30 miles from the heart of this gritty manufacturing city. Follow Youngblood Vineyard on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/youngbloodvineyard/.
We hope Spring 2017 finds you, your family, and your team happy and healthy! We’ve added some new and exciting things to help your oak aging program meet at the intersection of your consumers’ palates and their purchasing habits, and we’ve included a more diverse array of flavors to suit your custom demands.
As always, as a boutique oak solutions company, we appreciate every customer and thrive on referrals! Please share this newsletter with friends in the craft beverage community seeking a customized oak program.
Accelerated aging programs
How do you get your beverages out of the cellar and into your customers’ hands faster? If you don’t have 12-24 months to age your wine, cider, beer, or spirits but are still looking for oak character, we can help!
Is it an oak barrel? Is it a steel drum? Yes! (It’s both!)
What’s easy to care for, offers oak versatility with every vintage and true angels’ share evaporation while saving you exponentially on your barrel overhead costs?
Meet the new Titan Barrel: a hybrid stainless steel body with wooden heads and stave inserts (your choice of French, European, American, Acacia, or any combination). Change the heads and staves every year depending on the crop or as your beverages change, or let them go neutral and replace them as you want to add more new oak impact into your program.
New WineStix® toasts/wood types
We’ve added Burgundy Medium+ Long Toast to our WineStix® offering, which brings you a deeper, more complex flavor from our two-step patented toasting process. Available in French, American, or Applewood Tank Staves, Tank Segments, and Barrel Tethers. It’s as close as you can get to a barrel…without the barrel.
New CharStix™ Whiskey-Infused products for tanks or barrels. You asked and we listened!
Applewood, anyone? Offering low-tannin, intense baking spice in Medium Toast and baking spice plus added caramelized sweetness in Medium+ and Medium+ Long Toast, applewood is a unique complement to cider, beer, and aromatic white wines. Available in WineStix® Tank Staves, Tank Segments, and Barrel Tethers.
Tonnellerie Cadus PUR® toasting
Tonnellerie Cadus has developed a new, 100% natural protocol for barrel toasting which is noticeable after just a few months of barrel aging.
The Pur® Protocol for our Sensoriel series barrels contributes by:
• Breaking down the undesirable agents naturally present in the organoleptic expressions of oak
• Controlling the aromas and macromolecules produced during the toasting process
• Only retaining the most stable molecules
• Breaking down the most expressive molecules to ensure the finesse and quality of the “new barrel” impact
• Systematically reducing the density of extractable components, which leads to the reduction in expression of undesirable aromas
Taste for yourself how well these barrels work with cool climate wines (and they’re also amazing with cider…think apple pie brioche). Cheers!
To find out more about any of the above, please contact Petraea Plus at www.petraeaplus.com or +1 585-705-7500.
So, you want to offer a bourbon barrel-aged beer at your brewery because it’s different from the rest of your portfolio; plus, anything with the word bourbon on it is sexy, and this trend is NOW! If you’re lucky, your beer will turn out tasting like a great brew with a sweet kiss of complementary caramel-vanilla bourbon and your story and signature beer style will come shining through. Orrrrrr…it will taste like a tall, cold glass of 80-proof bourbon with a wee drop of beer. Those whiskey-saturated barrels from the big bourbon players take a few fills before they settle down and stop completely overwhelming the beer.
“But,” you say, “used bourbon barrels are cheap and plentiful, and who doesn’t want their brand to be associated with smokin’ hot names like Bulleit and Whistlepig, or classics like Woodford Reserve and Four Roses?” I’m all for upcycling, but when everyone is shooting for uniqueness in exactly the same way, they end up being, well, the same.
The only rule in craft brewing is that there are very few rules and small batches are easy, so why not tell a fresh story from everyone else? To celebrate the opening of the Festival of Wood- and Barrel-Aged Beers (#FoBAB) in Chicago last week, I attended a tasting at Revolution Brewing Company hosted by my Tonnellerie Cadus colleague from the west coast, a winemaker himself who has been working with breweries and cideries for the last few years on finding out how new French oak barrels impact various beer styles. The results were cool and unusual…and different!! While there were two brews from bourbon barrels for comparison, they were well made but tasted similar to the hundreds of bourbon-barrel aged beers and barleywines offered at the festival the next day.
Russian Imperial Stout, Crux Fermentation (Bend, Oregon). 11.5% ABV.
Aged 6 months in Cadus Origine series Mid-Tight Grain barrel (Medium+ toast). Bacon fat, nuts, some DMS. Sweet on the palate, Kahlua-like, bitter-chocolate hop finish, round, viscous, weighty.
Peach Saison, Temperance Brewing Company (Chicago, Illinois). 8.2% ABV.
Aged for 6 months in a Tonnellerie Cadus Sensoriel series Volume barrel (standard Medium+ toast). Cobbler in a glass. Fresh peaches, vanilla, Gerber baby food apricots. Toast and yeasty, fresh baked bread. Simple, fresh, fruity, and light, with a clean, bitter-hoppy finish.
Cadus Hard Apple Cider, Tin City Cider (Paso Robles, CA)
The unoaked control cider was über-clean, zippy with a lot of tart green apple, and very dry and refreshing (reminiscent of one of my favorite dry-hopped ciders from Citizen Cider in Vermont). Extremely gulpable.
The eponymous Cadus oaked version was fermented and then aged 4 months in Tonnellerie Cadus Sensoriel series Access (custom Medium+ toast) and Volume (standard Medium+ toast). Sweet-presenting classic French oak, round and broad in the mid-palate, subtle spice. Apple pie: Brioche pastry, cream.
”Real Wild Child” Eugene Porter, Revolution Brewing Company (Chicago, Illinois). 6.8% ABV.
Aged in Tonnellerie Cadus Sensoriel series Volume (standard Medium+ toast) and Intense (standard Medium++ toast). Sticky toffee pudding-molasses meets sour orange peel. One barrel in this batch went rogue and soured; the spontaneous second fermentation in that one led to the sour orange peel notes.
StraiGht Jacket Barleywine, Revolution Brewing Company (Chicago, Illinois). 13% ABV.
Traditionally aged in used bourbon barrels. Stewed fruits, roasted nuts, molasses, Hershey’s chocolate syrup. Maderized. Heavy. Sweet, sweet. Sweet.
“Mean Gene” Eugene Porter, Revolution Brewing Company (Chicago, Illinois). 8.5% ABV.
Aged for 36 weeks in used Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels. Lighter, coffee notes. Lighter weight than the rest. Slightly tart. Malty. Part of Revolution’s Deep Wood Series, which also includes Deth’s Tar, Ryeway To Heaven, Blue Gene, and Bean Gene.
Thank you to Revolution Brewing Company for hosting the tasting and Revolution Brewing Company, Temperance Brewing Company, Crux Fermentation, Tin City Cider for taking the time to age their beverages in something besides bourbon barrels and sharing the results. If you want to find out more about ways to age beer besides using bourbon barrels, click here to contact us. Cheers!