- (Public Value) UCANR: Building climate-resilient communities and ecosystems
- Author: Lynn Wunderlich
Mike McGee grows Christmas trees in El Dorado county and has been using stump culture on his 19 acre Choose n' Cut Farm for 36 years. According to Mike, stump culture reduces the time to harvest for a White Fir from 8-10 years to 5-7 years. One stump can provide as many as eight harvested trees.
If you want a Christmas tree from McGee Tree Farm, you'd better plan on getting it early. Located at 3,000 feet elevation
For those of you who think growing Christmas trees is as easy as planting a few conifers and forgetting about them, beware. Christmas tree production and stump culture takes work to produce a good looking tree. The cut, number of nurse branches, and selection of final tree sprout all affect the resulting success and tree quality. McGee goes back to each harvested stump in January and recuts the stump using a sharp saw to produce a clean cut. He then paints the stump using a 4 inch roller and an elastomeric coating, which is dense and will stretch. The coating helps to prevent the stump from rotting until the tree's nature sap overgrows it, sealing the stump.
The bigger the tree stump, the more nurse branches that are left. Typically this means leaving 10-12 branches around a white fir. New trees will grow up from either a nurse branch limb that turns up-not desirable due to the bend in the bottom- or a new sprout which will grow straighter, and is therefore more desirable than a tree grown from a turned up limb. The limbs fold up and shade the cut stump, nature's way of protecting the cuts that heal better when they have shade.
“Every tree is a perfect tree”, McGee once told me, who actively grooms his trees to keep the farm looking neat. Stump culture work is best done during the dormant season when branches are still pliable and green, before the summer heat. In this way, cut branches are easy to pick up off the ground by hand, before they are dried out and too prickly to handle.
“On my farm, everything is an experiment”, McGee told me. “Growers have to try it and find out for themselves. Maybe what works for me won't work the same for them.” Opening a week early this year to thin out the crowds during Covid-19, the full parking lot at McGee Tree Farm tells me this experiment is working just fine.
- Author: Lynn Wunderlich
Smoke taint in wine is defined as a lingering retro-nasal character (some describe as licking an ashtray-yeck!) and is not to be confused with “tobacco” flavors some grapes and wines may impart. White wines, which are less complex than reds, often show smoke compounds more since the offending smoke cannot "hide" in the oak or wine matrix. When you taste a wine, saliva picks up the smoke compounds with the other flavors. Interestingly, approximately 20-25% of wine drinkers can't pick up smoke in a tainted wine.
How does smoke taint a wine? When lignin, found in woody plants, is burned, volatile phenols (VPs) are released that absorb to grapevine leaves and berries. The VPs are absorbed through the berry skin and become BOUND inside. So, there are both FREE and BOUND volatile phenols in grapes affected from smoke exposure. For the wine industry, predicting smoke taint is tricky. The amounts of VPs present in smoke affected grapes are not related; there may be little to no
What's a grower to do? While washing ash off of fruit may help with flavors directly from ash, washing will not reduce smoke taint. And, so far, there are no known vineyard treatments (sprays) that have been shown to reduce taint. Spraying anything with a spreader/sticker adjuvant, even oil, during a fire event may even increase smoke taint uptake. Possibly the best thing a wine grape grower can do is get clear on their winery contract with relation to criteria for rejection, and insure their crop against possible losses, from smoke taint.
So far, most of the 2020 wildfires are far from foothill vineyards. And, since most of the taint research is related to "fresh" smoke (in close proximity to an active fire), I'm hopeful that 2020 foothill wines will escape with little smoke taint. Years ago, after the 2013 Rim Fire that burned in Tuolumne County, I visited Yosemite Cellars owners Cheryl and Ron Harms. They boldly made a Rim Fire Red with smoke tainted fruit from that vintage. Cheryl said for a time, it was a favorite with young wine drinkers. They loved the smokey flavor, reminiscent of an expensive Scotch, she said.