06 March 2008

Grape Pruning

Whispering Vines is on West 51st Street in Tulsa
Dean Riesen will demonstrate grape pruning on Mar 15 and 16
All the grape clippings you can prune on March 15

Dean Riesen brought wines from of Whispering Vines Vineyards and Winery to Muskogee last weekend to participate in the Shriner's Flying Fez wine tasting fundraiser.

On March 15 and 16. Volunteers are invited to come help prune two-acres of their vineyards in Tulsa.

"We can use every person who wants to come help," Dean said. "In the morning we will have coffee and donuts at 7 for the first class. We start the training indoors and then go outside to demonstrate correct pruning methods. I will also teach them how to root their cuttings at home."

Last year 15 family members and friends came to the pruning event.Doreen Riesen said this the first year they are opening it up to the public.

"We have all the equipment, will provide the training, lunch and winetasting," Doreen said. "Everyone who helps with the pruning can select a bottle of wine free to take home and they can buy other bottles if they want."
The Riesens started fulfilling their dream by taking the Oklahoma State University Viticulture and Enology Classes.(
http://www.hortla.okstate.edu/grapes/grapes.html) Dean and Doreen both took unpaid jobs at the now closed Natura Winery. Dean started by pulling weeds and worked up to pruning and pressing grapes while Doreen learned the hospitality side of the business.

The grapes they started growing at their Keystone Lake home in 2003,produce about a thousand gallons of wine a year. The grapes are madeinto 13 varieties of wine.

"We bought these five acres in Tulsa County from the herb farm next door so the soil was already really good," Dean said. "On this property we grow zinfandel, cabernet franc, cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah,Chardonnay, Riesling, Muscat Canelli and Sauvignon Blanc grapes. Those are the types the volunteers will be learning to prune and taking home cuttings from."

Dean said that there is a lot of variance on actual plants so he willtrain volunteers for each grape variety.

The grape pruning basics volunteers will learn include:
• Remove all the branches that grow toward the ground.
• Six branches are left on each side of the main plant.
• Cut after counting two buds from the stem.
• Remove old wood (grape clusters grow on this year's growth).
• How to root cuttings at home.

"If the leaves are allowed to shade the roots of the plants, they become vulnerable to black rot disease," Dean said. "You have to learn how to be kind of cruel to have healthy productive plants with high sugar content fruit."
In August there will a harvest party with food and wine taste, similar to the pruning event.

"One of the reasons micro wineries like ours can make some really great wines is that we hand select the grapes that are used," Dean said. "Large wineries put everything into their vats that the machines harvest. That can include stems and leaves. Each cluster that we harvest is selected and any that don't look good are left on the ground."

Dean explained that Cabernet and Riesling vines produce fewer clusters and therefore grow more slowly than zinfandel so cabernet wine is more expensive. Zinfandel produces larger clusters with more grapes so it costs less per bottle.
In a large room at the winery, vats and oak casks line the walls and tables fill the center. The oak barrels are used to age red wines. The Zambelli Internationale grape crusher, destemmer, bottle filler,bottle corker, and all the other equipment used to make wine are insight. Last year at the harvest event, volunteers learned how to use the equipment.

The dining room is used for dinner events and is rented out for rehearsal dinners, showers and other private parties. A full kitchen is provided.

"We hosted a Valentine's Day Ultimate Murder Mystery for about 80people," Doreen said. "The next dinner event we have planned is at Halloween, but there may be something before that. The dinners are salad to dessert, white table cloth and waiter events."

Dean works full time at T. D. Williamson (TDW) in Tulsa. TDW works with United Way in many fund-raising events. The Riesens are hosting the second annual Poker Run. This year's event on May 3 begins at the winery at 10 a.m. and ends at the winery with wine tasting and food.

The Whispering Vines' T-shirt motto sum up the Riesens' approach to running their business, "Blending Wine and Friends."

To find out more, go to
http://www.whisperingvines.net/, orriesenvineyards@netzero.com or 231-7928.

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