The Real Virginia “Vineyard Experience”

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Wine is alive. Wine is a breathing, evolving, meticulous, stubborn, and a wonderfully pleasurable thing! There are probably as many flavors and nuances from wine as there are different types of snowflakes. Well, that may be pushing it but when walking down that grocery store wine aisle, I am intrigued and overwhelmed by the many types, varieties, and flavors described on all those wine labels. This aisle at the grocery store is my Happy Place! I have become very familiar with what wines and flavors I like, what wine regions around the world I enjoy, and what foods pair with each one. I am succumbed by it, passionate about it, excited by it all! I really feel like a Master Sommelier (Wine Geek) as I peruse all my favorite wines and selections. And for all I know as I walk those wine aisles, I truly realize how little I know about wine. I mean, geez, how did all this wine get here to my Happy Place? I know once the wine is bottled and gets to my store that this was the last step in many steps to produce that wine and get it to my local store. So this brings me to a humbling realization that I need to know more about my wine passion and have found the venue which brings me closer to the knowledge I crave.

Ankida Ridge Vineyards is just outside of Lynchburg, Virginia and they host a fun, interesting, flavorful, “hands on” seminar which gives you all the winery and vineyard basics without having to get your hands dirty…..not too much anyway. Dennis and Christine Vrooman are the owners of Ankida Ridge Vineyards and are passionate about their wines and the real vineyard experience. Their “Vineyard Experience” seminar brings you out to the vineyards and winery about once a month through the grape growing season and lets you get immersed in the life of the grapes and vines. There are about 6-7 sessions and each one brings you a little closer to the life of a Vineyard Manager and Winemaker. These are about 4 hours sessions which include lunch and a glass of wine. And afterwards, grabbing one more bottle of wine and enjoying the Heavenly view from the vineyard deck which is spectacular!

The sessions are organized into seasonal happenings in the vineyard and there is something new to do in the vineyard each month:

  • In March, winter pruning of the vines are in order to make sure each vine is prepared for spring and the start of new growth.
  • April is the approximate time of budbreak of each vine and it is time to thin out the buds and make sure the vine is not overworked and is focusing on just a few of its buds.
  • About a month later in May, the buds are blooming and new shoots and canes need to be thinned out and the strongest of the canes need to be positioned for the fruit clusters to grow.
  • Veraison usually happens in July and it is the time when the red grapes change from their youthful green color into their usual red shade. It is a very beautiful time in the vineyard!
  • Harvest time happens in September and it is a great time to help crush the grapes that you took care of in your vineyard row!
  • In October/November, the Vrooman’s host a harvest dinner to celebrate the year in the vineyard and discuss all the positives and negatives of the growing year.
  • About a year after your seminar sessions, there will be a Vintage Release Party to celebrate your grapes being bottled and released to the public. An unveiling of great wines that you were part of that prior year.

Ankida Ridge tries to keep the vineyard as organic as possible and uses biodynamic processes in their farming program. The dogs keep away the deer, chickens to eat the bugs and grubs, sheep to graze the vineyard grounds which reduces weeds and fertilizes the soil, and spraying is kept to a minimum. Here, in Virginia’s “Little Burgundy” grows some the best Chardonnay and about the only Pinot Noir in the state! This is a beautiful area producing amazing wines so what better place to learn the whole winery and vineyard system? We were very satisfied with the many things we learned about the vineyard and grape growing and now feel we can appreciate the wine we drink that much better! Comradery between your classmates after each session only enhances the fun and learning!

Check the Ankida Ridge website Winery at http://www.AnkidaRidge.com for more information about the Vineyard Experience seminars and when they will be held in 2017. Dennis and Christine Vrooman are fun, experienced, wonderful hosts who will teach you all the vineyard fun facts, help you get involved in the farming processes, and share some great food and wine with! When the seminars are over, you will leave with a greater appreciation for the wine you drink since you know everything that happened that got your favorite wines to your local wine store. And you will make new friendships that are always priceless. Cheers!

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