Journal | September 11, 2016
When I first planted Hardscrabble Vineyard in 1985 our biggest problem was deer predation to the young tender shoots and then eventually to the clusters. Over the years, orchardists and vineyardists have developed deer fencing that is more or less 100% effective in keeping deer out of out plantings. Birds became problem number two. Now we net most of our vines (birds don’t seem to like Petit Manseng or Petit Verdot, probably because they ripen late and most of the resident birds have headed south). Now the problem is bear.
It only takes one or two bear to eat a lot of grapes in one night. They don’t respect the deer fence as they can effortlessly scale a post or tunnel under. Our electric extension wires on the deer fence with peanut butter spread on pie plates attached can help (an electric shock to the tongue or nose is quite a shock). But once they find a way in, the only thing I can do is harass them at night or in the morning pre dawn with spot lights and bird shot. I can’t bring myself to shoot them, even though I could get a “nuisance permit”. Many of my hunter friends have offered. All seem to have special recipes for bear stew or sausage. But these creatures are too majestic for me to make that decision. At least for now.
The east block of three year old Sauvignon Blanc was the “teenage” bear’s block of choice. The damage was pretty bad. but the block had other ripening issues, probably because of the heat and drought. We only picked the good clusters, leaving the compromised clusters on the vines (normally we drop them to the ground). The thought is that our young resident bear will be satisfied to glean for a few weeks while we continue to harvest other blocks.
We also have moved a our pomace/compost pile to a location outside the deer fence making in very accessible to bear feeding. Pomace is the grape skins and pulp remaining in the press after squeezing the juice out. When fresh, it apparently is quite tasty to bear. Two nights ago I was entertained by one extremely large bear tunneling into the pomace pile. Perhaps he will experience a stomach ache so severe that it will put him off grapes forever.