Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wrapping up 2009

It's been a big year for Layton's Chance and we're looking forward to a breather before going into 2010. The Vidal and Niagara wines have successfully passed primary fermentation and were racked yesterday. Now we wait for solids to settle and for the flavor to develop. The other wines are also in good shape, and our main task now is to prevent oxidation. As William noted yesterday, there are many chances for wine to be spoiled throughout the winemaking process, but so far we are very pleased with how ours have turned out.

There's good news from the drywallers too, who have finished prepping the walls for painting. We were especially impressed with the men who used stilts (and double stilts!) to reach the ceiling and upper walls. Check out some more construction pictures in our photo gallery.
Thanks for keeping up with us and we wish you all a happy holiday season!

Friday, December 18, 2009

100% chance of snow

The radio tells us there's a 100% chance of snow tomorrow and I can definitely feel it in the air. Today is the coldest it's been all week, but there's a big empty field which we need to turn into a second vineyard so we're working out there this afternoon.

In the winery, our newest wines are nearly through fermentation and we'll be able to move them next week. I'm looking forward to the end of the construction there, so we can set up our lab and the office and have all our equipment in one place. The Chambourcin rose had higher acidity than we wanted so we blended it with the dry Chambourcin red, and tests this morning showed improvement.
As for construction, the drywall is up everywhere and they're doing the final touches to prepare it for painting. We have outdoor lights now, so you can find your car in the parking lot!

Farm operations are wrapping up for the season. Chuck spent a few days cleaning the combine so it's bright and shiny now. William and Joe took the tractor out and leveled the driveway, a necessary task after all that rain.

Now, it's time to hunker down and stay warm for the weekend!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Deer Fencing

Despite the onset of winter weather (and colds), we've been very productive these past few days.

The harvest is finally over, culminating in a full Saturday of cutting soybeans. That means that more energy can be completely devoted to the vineyard and winery. Today, Richard and Chloe hung some of the deer fencing, to protect our precious grapes from nibbling animals. We should be able to finish closing in the vineyard tomorrow. The new vineyard will also need to be protected as it is situated close to the woods where we see deer quite often.

Last week we received two barrels of Niagara grape juice and filled another tank with Vidal. Both of these white wines are undergoing fermentation right now. I'll give you more of an update on them later this week.

Also, check out the new page on our website- we've put out the details about what grapes we're growing and what wines we'll make with them!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

New Trellises

The new trellises in the vineyard are almost finished, thanks to the hard work by Richard. He spent time the past few weeks installing a Geneva Double Curtain system, which is designed to handle vigorously growing grapes. We are using it with Norton grapes, which are a native American grape and well-suited for this climate. Right now the vines are only a year old, but when they reach their growth spurt, we'll be ready!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


It's been a gray week so far, cloudy with steady rain. Not great for cutting soybeans but perfect for baking, eating turkey and watching football. The Laytons are headed to Pennsylvania for the holiday weekend and we hope they'll bring sun when they return.

William and I (Chloe) went to speak to Al Cassinelli, of Cassinelli's Winery and Vineyards. He's going into his second year of operations and had many insights to share about his experience. Winemakers seem to be a pretty friendly breed, offering lots of encouragement to us newcomers.

Back at the winery, Richard has been doing (quite literally) the dirty work. We racked the Traminette yesterday, after a lengthy fermentation, and today, the Chambourcin. This process, where we get rid of the accumulated solids in the bottom of the tank, is called 'getting the wine off the lees.' Basically, there's a beautiful purple mess left from fermentation (the lees) and it has to be rinsed out before putting wine back in. Fortunately, water (and water pressure) are wonderful cleaning agents.

Happy Thanksgiving and thanks for checking in!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Preparing for winter

What a busy season! After the excitement with the press, things have been running relatively smoothly around here. We received juice from Concord, Traminette, and Chambourcin grapes at the end of October and they are happily fermenting away. The Vidal white and Chambourcin blush are finished fermenting and will rest for the next few weeks.

In the vineyard, we spent the past week doing preliminary pruning- trimming long shoots so vines can save energy reserves during the cold months. Another benefit to extensive pruning is to open up space for new shoots in the spring. We also began laying out the new vineyard (see the picture on our homepage), where we will plant 5 more acres of grapes this spring.

We have two new employees to help with all this work. Richard is helping William manage and maintain the vineyard. Chloe assists in the Winery, although there are many projects which call for collaboration.

As for construction in the winery, things are moving according to schedule (aside from some trouble with the well, now resolved). We have interior walls in most of the rooms and are preparing to furnish and equip the lab. Maybe we'll have that set up and usable by the end of the year!

Two more batches of juice will arrive soon, Vidal and Niagara varietals, so we'll keep you updated as things move along.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Our first wine is in the tank!

What a week! The press was fixed on Wednesday afternoon. Laura “convinced” UPS that William should be able to meet the UPS truck, get the part, and rush it to the winery as quickly as possible. The electricians were waiting for the part, and the press was back to work by the middle of the afternoon.

Everything is moving along quite rapidly now with our first juice fermenting in a tank, and the press going non-stop 15 hours a day. As soon as one cycle is finished, the press is emptied, cleaned, and readied for the next batch of grapes. We hope to finish the Traminette today and start pressing Chambourcin tomorrow. The Traminette will make a white wine, and we will make a blush from this Chambourcin. Our test batch of Chambourcin last winter was delicious and we are very excited about the possibilities of our Chambourcin wine.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

First day of pressing grapes

We had finally gotten everything working today when the press blew up – complete with smoke and terrible noises! The building was bustling this morning when we started the press for the first time, and when the juice started pouring into the catch pan, we literally had a crowd of about 15 construction workers standing around in awe of the process. It was a very exciting morning...until it crashed. It was during the second cycle of pressing the Traminette variety. Fortunately the electricians were working in the building and helped William – a very distraught William – figure out what was wrong. Our electricians figured out the problem (we hope) and the part is ordered and will be shipped overnight. It was quite a let-down from our initial excitement at getting everything started.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Rain, Rain, Rain

All the wet weather has brought not only tremendous growth, but an influx of unwanted pests. None of them hurt the grapes, but they could affect the leaves. Downy mildew looks like a white powder on the underside of the leaf. Little white capsules on the underside of the leaf hatch out into little black bugs that crawl around, but don’t eat the leaf.

The new entrance to Layton’s Chance looks like a super highway off the New Bridge Road driveway to the winery being built by United Construction. A larger culvert and the beginning of a huge stone driveway now show the world where Layton’s Chance is about to be born.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Construction to Start Soon!

What has been a field of grain for the last hundred years will soon be a winery! A new construction date of July 12 has been set by Morton after the debate about the sprinkler system was resolved (at least for now). We are ready to build as soon as the materials arrive. Some equipment for the winery has already started to arrive, and the rest will be shipped as soon as the building is ready.

The grapes are growing like a jungle from all this rain. Four grape varieties - Chambourcin, Vidal, Traminette, and Norton are climbing faster than the vineyard workers can keep up with them.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Real Address!!

Layton’s Chance has an address and a mailbox. A black mailbox proclaims, “Layton’s Chance - 4225 New Bridge Rd.” The bulldozers and earthmovers are working, and the site pad for the winery is almost complete. The trucks haul in rubble fill for the parking lot, and that work is still in progress. If the rain would stop, perhaps the rest of the work could get done. For the last 3 weeks, Vienna has had nothing but clouds and rain – not conducive to building a winery, or to growing crops for that matter.