Something exciting is underway at Hawk Haven (in addition to our regular, everyday exciting) that we wanted to share with you. We’ve been calling it “The Rutgers Research Project at Hawk Haven” (or Rutger’s Project for short) because it is headed by Dan Ward, the Assistant Extension Specialist, and Peter Oudemans, the Associate Professor, both of Rutgers’ Plant Biology and Pathology department. Together with the Outer Coastal Plains Association, they developed a four year trial to see how two rare and unique varietals grow here on the East Coast.
It all began a few years ago when Todd’s quality management of the vineyard caught Dan’s attention. He saw a guy who really cared about the plants and worked hard every day to bring each vine to its full potential. So Hawk Haven Vineyard was chosen, along with three other vineyards throughout the state, to participate in a mutli-year study of the different growing climates of New Jersey. Each vineyard was chosen based on their location as well as the dedication and commitment of the vineyard managers to their land. In that respect, we were very honored to have been selected and look forward to seeing the results.
We were provided with ten vines each of two different varietals. The first, Lagrein, is a red grape native to Northern Italy, known for its full body and high acidity. Besides Italy, it can also be found growing in Australia and New Zealand, and it is related to Pinot Noir and Syrah. The second is a relative of the Lagrein grape, another red Italian varietal called Teroldego, an even more rarely found grape. Teroldego is known for producing a deeply pigmented, fruity wine. Both varietals are almost nonexistent here in the states and have been quarantined at UC Davis for several years to test for inherent diseases and to see how they stand up against any diseases and pests that are native to North America.
The experiment also involved the installation of a weather station out in the vineyard that will record various factors like wind, humidity, precipitation, and temperature. There are even these little “leaves” that are placed within the canopy among the real leaves and will record leaf wetness. This information is uploaded via cell tower to a website that Dan & Peter will use to study all these factors at each of the four vineyards. The best part is that we also get access to this information which will be extremely useful to us going forward in planning future vineyard maintenance.
We planted the vines earlier this spring, the weather station is all set up (you can check it out during our Vineyard & Winery Tour), and we also hired an intern who has experience in plant physiology. She will be helping Todd with petiole sampling to monitor nutrients, testing the sugar content in the grapes (°brix), and other information recording for this Rutgers Project. And get this: once the grapes are grown, we get to keep the fruit! So in a few years you might see some blends featuring Lagrein or Teroldego in the racks of our tasting room. In fact, we should probably start practicing how to properly pronounce those varietals.
By the end of the experiment, Dan and Pete will have collected enough weather information to see the difference in climate across the state and how it affects the vines. We think this will be really great for the New Jersey grape growing industry because in addition to producing award-winning wines, we will have cold, hard facts to support NJ as an excellent growing region. So stay tuned, we will continue to give updates on the progress of this experiment, and we can’t wait to see how these varietals grow here and if they will produce good wines for us.