Awaiting Veraison

Grapes beginning to ripen at La Gracia Vineyard

What’s happening in the field? Well, it’s crazy to think that we are now only 2 months away from starting harvest.  We historically harvest Sauvignon Blanc in the first week of September, followed by the fruit that we pick for sparkling wine & our Nouveau pick.  So it’s all hands on deck now!

We have removed leaves at both La Esperanza and La Gracia vineyards. All of the fruit is set & now we are waiting for veraison. Veraison is the stage in a grapevine’s growth when the berries transition from being small, hard, and green to becoming larger, softer, and beautifully colored. It’s kind of like the turning point in the grape’s life, where it starts to show its true potential! The photo below is veraison in action at our La Gracia vineyard last August.


Grapes in veraison at La Gracia Vineyard in 2022

During veraison, which usually occurs in late summer or early autumn, the grape berries go through some remarkable changes. For starters, they begin to accumulate sugar, which is pretty important for making tasty wine. This is why winemakers & vineyard owners keep a close eye on veraison, as they want to make sure the grapes reach the desired sugar levels for the wine they’re aiming to produce.

But it’s not just about sugar. Veraison is also when the grapes start to develop their characteristic colors. If you’ve ever noticed a bunch of grapes with both green & purple berries, you’re likely witnessing veraison in action. The green grapes begin to turn red, purple, or even black, depending on the grape variety. White grapes such as Riesling & Sauvignon Blanc will go through veraison as well! These grapes turn from green to a more translucent, golden color on the vine as shown in the photo below.

Now, here’s a fun fact: the color change during veraison is due to pigments called anthocyanins. These pigments are responsible for the lovely hues you see in red & purple grapes. They also contribute to the wine’s color & can even affect its flavor as well as aroma. So, veraison is like nature’s way of adding a touch of artistry to the grapevine’s journey.

Riesling Grapes from La Gracia Vineyard in 2022

Another significant transformation during veraison is the softening of the grape berries. They become less firm & more pliable to the touch, indicating that they’re ripening. The graphic below from Wine Folly shows a nice visual of the grape ripening process! This change in texture is crucial for winemakers because it affects how the grapes are handled during harvest. Soft grapes can be more easily pressed or crushed to extract the juice, which is the first step in winemaking.

Veraison doesn’t happen all at once. It’s a gradual process that occurs over several weeks. Different berries on the same cluster or even different clusters on the same vine can reach veraison at slightly different times. It adds to the beauty and complexity of grape growth.

So, next time you’re visiting Modales during late summer or early autumn, take a moment to appreciate veraison. It really is a remarkable & beautiful stage where grapes transform from simple green orbs to vibrant, sweet, & colorful treasures, ready to be turned into the wines we love.

 Don’t forget to book your Modales Estate Tour this summer to learn about & witness these fun stages of grape growing for yourself!


Ready, Fruit Set, Go!

T-Minus 90 days until harvest & here’s our update in the field!  Things are in full swing in our vineyards, flowering has just finished up & we now have set our fruit for the season. This time of year can be a bit of a nail-biter as we get one chance in the year for the flowers to pollinate and set fruit. Too much rain, too little rain, heavy winds, insects, etc… can all impact the crop that is set.  We lucked out this year and had perfect conditions for a healthy crop, we received rain at the right times and the vineyards are flush with fruit.  Now we just have to protect what we have.


Below you can see the stages of fruit development:

(a) Flowers with caps attached

(b) bloom

(c) berries formed at fruit set

(d) berries after fruit set


We have been mad brewers lately! With every spray that we apply to the vineyard we are incorporating compost teas, compost tea is like a superfood for plants, especially for vineyards! It’s a magical elixir created by steeping compost in water to extract all its beneficial nutrients and microorganisms. Just think of it as a concentrated, nutrient-rich liquid fertilizer that helps your vines thrive.

We briefly mentioned compost tea before, but let’s dive into the benefits of using it in your vineyard. First and foremost, it’s all about the nutrients. Compost tea is loaded with essential elements like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which are crucial for healthy plant growth. These nutrients are released slowly and are readily available to the roots, ensuring a steady supply of nourishment for your vines.

But that’s not all! Compost tea is also a haven for beneficial microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. These microscopic helpers play a vital role in maintaining soil health and promoting a balanced ecosystem in your vineyard. They assist in breaking down organic matter, improving soil structure, and enhancing nutrient availability. By using compost tea, you’re essentially introducing an army of beneficial microorganisms to support your vines’ well-being.


Another fantastic benefit of compost tea is its ability to suppress diseases. The microorganisms present in the tea form a protective barrier on the plants’ leaves and roots, making it more challenging for harmful pathogens to establish themselves. This natural defense mechanism can help prevent diseases from taking hold in your vineyard and reduce the need for chemical interventions.

Compost tea also enhances soil fertility and structure. It improves soil’s water-holding capacity, reducing water runoff and erosion. The organic matter in the tea helps increase soil’s ability to retain moisture, ensuring your vines have access to water during dry spells. Additionally, the microorganisms in the tea break down organic matter in the soil, improving its structure, aeration, and drainage. This, in turn, creates a healthier root environment for your vines to grow deep and strong.

Moreover, using compost tea in your vineyard promotes biodiversity. By introducing a diverse range of microorganisms, you encourage a thriving soil ecosystem, which supports the growth of beneficial insects and earthworms. These tiny allies help control pests, pollinate flowers, and further improve soil health, creating a harmonious environment for your vines.

Lastly, let’s not forget about sustainability. Compost tea is an environmentally friendly choice for vineyards. By utilizing compost, a byproduct of organic waste, and avoiding synthetic fertilizers, you’re reducing your environmental footprint and contributing to a healthier planet.

To some it all up, compost tea provides a plethora of benefits for your vineyard. It enriches the soil with essential nutrients, fosters a diverse and thriving soil ecosystem, enhances disease resistance, improves soil structure and water retention, and promotes sustainability. It’s like a secret weapon in your vine-growing arsenal, ensuring your grapes are happy, healthy, and ready to produce delicious wines!

Cheers to a productive summer, we invite you to come walk the vineyards and see what we have been hard at work stewarding! If you plan your visit on the weekend, you can start your day with a Modales Estate Tour!


Ready For Flowering

It’s June & here’s what we have going on in the field! We are currently in the midst of rapid vine growth due to the warm weather here in Southwest Michigan. It’s incredible to think that in just three months, we’ll be harvesting the 2023 vintage!

The current focus is still on suckering and shoot thinning our vines. This involves removing shoots that hinder the ripening of quality fruit or cause congestion in the trellis. This not only improves fruit ripening, but also helps reduce the risk of fungal diseases.

To combat fungal diseases organically, we recently sprayed compost tea in the vineyards. Compost tea is made by brewing compost in water, which promotes the growth of beneficial soil bacteria like Bacillus Subtilus. These microbes facilitate the vine’s interaction with the soil, exchanging sugars released by the vine’s roots for minerals and nutrients.

This process imitates the symbiotic relationship found in nature & helps us combat fungal diseases. It ultimately creates an inhospitable environment for them!

Compost Tea

Next in the vine’s progression is the flowering stage, which we’re expecting to begin next week! Flowering is a critical phase in the reproductive process of grapevines and a significant milestone in grape development. Here in Fennville, the flowering stage typically takes place around mid to late June, depending on the grape variety.

During flowering, the vines produce small clusters of inconspicuous greenish-yellow flowers, each containing male & female reproductive structures. Pollination occurs when the flowers become receptive, allowing for self-pollination or cross-pollination facilitated by wind or insects.

Once pollination happens, fertilization occurs, & the flowers transform into small green grape berries. Although initially hard and underdeveloped, these berries will gradually grow and ripen throughout the growing season.

It’s important to note that grapevines are hermaphroditic, having both male & female reproductive structures within the same flower. However, certain grape varieties may exhibit imperfect flowers with either male or female reproductive organs. In such cases, cross-pollination with compatible grapevines is necessary for fertilization & fruit set.

Successful flowering & pollination are crucial for a bountiful grape harvest. Unfavorable conditions during this stage, such as frost, excessive rainfall, or strong winds, can lead to poor fruit set & reduced yields in the vineyard. Similarly, hindrances to the pollination process can result in uneven berry development or smaller clusters.

Therefore, we closely monitor the flowering stage, paying attention to weather conditions & implementing preventive measures to protect the delicate flowers. This ensures optimal pollination & sets the stage for a successful grape harvest later in the season. Check out the photo below to see clusters of our La Gracia Estate Blaufränkisch in pre-bloom! 

As the growing season ramps up in the vineyards, we’re also seeing the winery get busy heading into summer. We encourage you to visit & experience Modales. To see all of the ways you can experience Modales, Click here!


Bud Break In The Vineyards

We’re back in the field with great news! Bud break has occurred across all varieties, & we’re now witnessing 3-6 inches of vibrant green growth. Bud break or bud burst in simple terms, is the green growth you see in the photos above & below. It’s an exciting time in the vineyards & really sets the stage for the new growing season.

We’ve successfully planted all of the new vines, but we’re now facing a new challenge in the vineyards – the need for rain! To ensure the survival and thriving of these young vines, we’re currently irrigating them with a water tanker truck, delivering 900 gallons at a time. This task has become a full-time job in itself for the Modales crew. If anyone has rain-dance skills, our vineyard is your dance floor!

We’re about to enter the next stage of the grape-growing season, where we’ll be suckering the vineyards. Suckering involves removing weak, sick, or poorly positioned vine shoots. After bud break & as the weather warms up, there’s a rapid acceleration in shoot growth. By clipping off these shoots, we make room for healthy ones to develop fully & prioritize their growth on the vine where we want it.

At Modales, we take pride in not using Roundup or any other synthetic herbicides. We believe this choice enhances the fruit quality & supports a healthy environment for beneficial insects, fungi, and microbiology. However, it does make the season more labor-intensive. We’ll begin manually hoeing weeds around the vines to prevent overcrowding & competition. The focus will be on larger weeds like “dock” & climbing vines such as “hairy vetch”. This selective approach helps mitigate the down-sides of these weeds while maintaining soil health.

This week, we’ll be in the vineyards applying a product called Stylet-Oil. This oil is an organic solution that suffocates fungal spores like powdery mildew & other undesirables. Starting the season with a clean slate allows us to maintain it more effectively throughout.

We encourage you to visit the tasting room and witness the ongoing work happening in the vineyard. If you plan on visiting on the weekend, we suggest you book our Modales Estate Tour & let our educated hosts guide you through the sustainable farming & winemaking practices at Modales. Click here to learn more!


In The Field

Just when we thought we may have forgotten what the sun looked like, we have a week like this and remember why we live here.  Here at Modales Estate Vineyards we had a great winter with no negative-degree temperatures throughout the season but plenty of snowfall to protect and insulate the vines. This set the stage for a full healthy crop making us happy grape growers.  Winter slowly waned and in the second week of April we had weather in the 80s, prematurely waking up the vines.  Although it was a welcomed respite for most of us who needed to thaw out from the winter, it was a different story for the vineyards.  As the soil warms up above 48 degrees, the vine starts its growing process, swelling buds and starting the flow of sap.  Farmers and gardeners alike know that we can still have frost conditions and if the vines break bud too early in the season the young buds can freeze causing crop loss.  Just before the buds completely opened we had a cool-down that slowed growth, saving the vines from any significant amounts of damage.  This week we are now seeing true bud-break on most of the vines and the season has truly started.

As many of you may know, Modales has started pursuing a path of sustainable grape growing, with the goal to be certified organic by next vintage (it takes 3 years of practicing organic farming to certify).  Growing grapes organically is partly what we don’t do, ie; not spraying synthetic herbicides, fungicides, or pesticides, but it is also what we proactively do to steward our vineyards.  This week we will be planting 10,000+ new vines at La Esperanza, including a new planting of Gamay Noir and Gewurztraminer.  To prepare for this we will be cover-cropping our vineyards with a variety of beneficial plants that will incorporate organic matter and nitrogen to facilitate healthy growth for these plants, it also gives a home to many of the beneficial insects and bees that we want in the vineyards to combat the ones that we don’t want.  We also will be applying compost to the La Gracia vineyard here at the winery site.  We compost all of our grape pomace, lees, and bring in manure from our neighbors at Red Horse Ranch to be self-sustainable in our pursuit of fertilization.  This compost will give the nutrients back to the land.


In an effort to further reduce any need for synthetic pesticides we are implementing beneficial nematodes this year, applying them to all 40 acres later this week.  Nematodes seek out the larvae of Japanese Beetles, Fruit Flies, and Grape Berry Moth before they grow into their final form and parasitize them, reducing their population and the negative impact they have on the vines.  This approach also protects the beneficial insects and native bees that we rely on to balance our ecosystem.  We are excited to see the results!

We have begun to implement biodynamic principles within our farming system as well. If you don’t know what biodynamics is, here is our shorthand way of explaining – Biodynamics is rooted in the work of philosopher and scientist Dr. Rudolph Steiner, whose 1924 lectures to farmers opened a new way to integrate scientific understanding with a recognition of spirit in nature. Biodynamics has continued to develop and evolve since the 1920s through the collaboration of many farmers and researchers. Around the world, biodynamics is alive in thousands of thriving gardens, farms, vineyards, ranches, and orchards. The principles and practices can be applied anywhere food or wine is grown, with thoughtful adaptation to scale, landscape, climate, and culture.  We are collecting and preparing some of the prescribed preparations including dandelions and nettle from the Modales property. These principles and practices focus on creating an environment for a vine to be healthy and to thrive eschewing the use of agrochemicals and helping a farm be self-sufficient.

This week is the real beginning to the season and we are excited to be out there working on what will be the wines you will enjoy in 2024.  We hope to have you visit the property and see the hard work that goes into crafting Modales wines.  Happy spring!