Much to BEE Happy About

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Long before we got here, bees have been a part of the landscape at Patton Valley. The moderate weather patterns and plant diversity of the Willamette Valley favored many varieties of bee habitats for thousands of years. Before falling fallow, our estate had been planted to plums and cherries, both relying on bee pollination for fruit set. Many of these trees remain. With the addition of blackberry, dandelion, and clover producing an abundance of both nectar and pollen, Patton Valley is a prime bee habitat.

Over the last three years, we have made a more concerted effort to integrate bees into our farm. We think it’s the right thing to do, plus it’s just plain fun! Conventional agricultural practices and many other environmental factors have had a devastating effect on bee populations within the last few decades; we want to do our part to rehabilitate this important piece of our local ecosystem.

Keeping bees is a labor of love, and every beekeeper has tales of successes and failures. Our spring hive inspection this year revealed one of our two hives to be empty. This was very disheartening. How did this happen? How can we prevent it from happening again? Not having the answers to these vital questions forced us to search for someone who did. Enter Tom Bandy…

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I met Tom Bandy (TB) a few years ago; he is the type of person you just don’t forget.  TB is an eccentric, sweet, loveable, bearded, bee-loving wild man that you instantly fall in love with. He keeps around 10 hives in a wide range of locations in the valley, and pulls knowledge from many successes and failures throughout his beekeeping days. He has agreed to mentor us on the particulars of apiary management (apiary is the correct term for a place where bees are kept) and is a proponent of keeping bees in a more natural way without the use of pest treatments or other interventions that can harm the bees. Honey productivity is not as important to him as having a healthy and happy hive, and we feel that way too.

This past Thursday, TB paid us a visit.  Lee and I were both excited to have him here, anxiously anticipating the professional assistance as we checked on the hives.  The first hive was buzzing–an efficient machine. With this warm0601161352a 2 spring weather, the bees had quickly filled one of the boxes with honey.  They were looking to add another room to their crowded house, so we added another empty box (Honey Super).  We searched for any signs that the hive would be looking to swarm, but they looked to be sticking around for a while. Sweet! (Pun intended).

Now with a high five and sweat already flowing under my heavy cotton suit (TB wears nothing in terms of protective gear but a fishing hat and some peppermint oil), we walked down to the deserted hive, hoping to solve the puzzle of why they left.  The upper cover to our hive had been left askew, and the resulting crack was abuzz with bee activity. A wild colony of bees had taken up residence in our deserted two story bee mansion! This is called a swarm–a natural form of reproduction and a bee colony survival instinct. A colony will make a new queen and split, resulting in potentially thousands of bees on the move, searching for a new residence. We assessed the health of the new colony:  the numbers weren’t as high as the other hive, but they had everything they needed to have a good season in their new home.

All in all a great afternoon! We were excited to have two healthy hives, and learned a few things to look for in keeping them that way. While eating one of Lee’s famous sandwiches, we made a list of next steps and started a bee journal to record and keep track of what we did. TB was just getting ready to leave when Chuy came running up to tell us that while moving catch-wires in the vineyard the crew had just stumbled upon a wild swarm of honeybees. What a stroke of luck!!! And most amazingly, TB was here and knew just what to do!

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The next half hour was a blur of excitement as we threw together a new hive with some pieces we had and some TB keeps in his truck just for that occasion. Following TB’s leadership and infectious excitement, we gently swept (using a feather!) the thousands of bees from the swarm into their new hive. They quickly started housekeeping activities, sending pheromones to the rest of the colony that their search for a new residence was over. The new hive sat next to

the swarm site in the 10 acre block overnight, and Lee came early the next morning to move it when they were all inside. Next time you come up the hill, take a look up at the center gully at the bottom of our newer planting and you will see the latest exciting addition to our apiary!

So why does any of this matter?  Grape vines are self-pollinated by the wind and don’t need the bees to produce fruit.  Our interest in bees is more about helping to propagate a struggling species, and to pollinate our many flowering cover crops, along with the other plant diversity, in and around our vineyard. We hope in the next few growing seasons to increase our plant diversity, focusing on native species that would support beneficial insects (Including, obviously, bees). Our primary focus as stewards of our property is to build and maintain a thriving healthy farm ecosystem, where plants and bugs live happily. Fricking cool, right?

We don’t expect all of our efforts to be as exciting as the bee events this past week, but we look forward to keeping you all informed on what we are up to.

 

That’s if folks, we are officially tapped!

Keezer

As the Patton Valley growlers have begun to appear in the tasting room, the gossip has spread that we are up to something big and crazy. Derek and Lee have spent the last few months hand-crafting our newest addition to the tasting room. . . the Patton Valley Kegzilla (a kegerator built out of a chest freezer)! In addition to our standard tasting, we will be pouring a rotating selection of three Patton Valley wines with growler fills available.

keezer 2Derek’s hope is that that these kegged wines will offer a fishbowl look at what is going on in the winery.  Often we will showcase wines that are only available by keg, or something that just struck our fancy that day and we felt like offering it up.

 

Stay tuned for our rotating flights of Patton Valley wines. P.S. we may even have a beer or two from time to time!

Back by popular demand, the Tasting Room is now OPEN 5 DAYS A WEEK!

You asked for it, you get it (don’t let it go to your heads). As of now the tasting room is open Thursday through Monday. That’s right, folks! Frankly, we missed seeing you, and we know you’ve missed the flexibility. So, come see us 5 days a week from 11:00-5:00pm.

Derek’s Desk

March 3, 2016

From the Laboratory:

1012659_10151277907697168_760655387_nHere in the cellar the wines are bubbling away as they get through Malolactic fermentation, or MLF.  “What”, you might say? “I thought harvest and the days of fermenting were long gone.”

Well, this time of year, once the primary (alcoholic) fermentation is done, the wines go through MLF, a process by which the naturally occurring Malic acid is converted into the less twangy and more reliable Lactic acid.  Once the wines go through this process they become much more stable.  Stable is good, it means they are that much closer to being ready to drink. A thing, I believe we can all agree on, that is very good.

The Vineyard – What’s happening now?

The most interesting thing to report here is that Jesus “Chuy” Mora is nearly finished pruning our entire vineyard by himself.

Let us paint a clearer picture:  Chuy’s shears have touched over 43,000 PVV Edits-6vines. Yes, you should bring a cold compress to the Spring pickup party for him just to show him you care. We appreciate the hard work and dedication as pruning may be the single most important aspect to vineyard management. These careful cuts set us up for success for the rest of the season. Looks like 2016 is going to be great.

New Faces, New Places

It’s never really as easy as out with the old and in with the new here at PVV. We have a bad habit of falling in love with the people who work for us. Luckily, we are pretty awesome, and they tend to fall in love with us, too. In any case, people do move on, and we wish them nothing but the best.IMG_0809

The old news is this: Ashley Campion accepted a great opportunity as Assistant Winemaker at Lemelson Vineyards, and we trust she is doing great things there. Taking her place as Cellarmaster is Lee Beck who, having honed his skills in California and Chile, now joins our team. Lee brings a diverse skill set and breadth of knowledge with him that we intend to exploit often.

Mary-Ellen Jones, our Director of Hospitality and Marketing, has moved to Ohio. Since we IMG_0799already have separation anxiety (she just left), Mary-Ellen is going to continue to work for our team remotely. She will be regularly pouring wine in Ohio, and helping to get Justina Harris, our new Tasting Room Manager, up and running.

Justina comes to us from a rich background in wine and hospitality. Her a-ha wine moment came at Elk Cove when  she was in 9th grade – a story worth asking about.  Recently Justina has worked for Lachini here in Oregon, and at Sawtooth in Idaho where she put on events for over 1000 people. Don’t worry, Drink Pink will go on without a hitch.