Frost and Critter Pressure Blamed for Reduced Yield at Annual Red Grape Stomp

Jon Kral standing next to the 2018 full harvest of Chambourcin grapes which was less than a third of the harvest in 2016.

From Staff Reports

The quantity of grape juice produced by competing teams at Enoch’s Stomp Vineyard’s tenth annual Red Grape Stomp at the weekend was considerably less than in previous years. The winning weight was 11 lbs, while a couple of years ago the winners produced a whopping 17 lbs of juice.

Co-owner, Jon Kral, puts the blame fairly and squarely on “critter pressure” and the severe April frost experienced in the East Texas valley near Harleton where the vineyard is located.

“Typically, we want to have a dry season. It does stress the roots and it does stress the plants so you get more intensity to the flavors. We’ve had perfect weather, but a lower yield because of the animals.

“It’s a hot year and we expected a good harvest. But we got killed by the frost and we got killed by the animals.”

The Red Grape Stomp

A total of 15 two-people teams competed in this year’s red grape stomp. Each team was supplied with 25 lbs of grapes and given six minutes (three minutes each) to stomp as much juice out of them as they could. The average weight of the juice produced by the teams was 7 to 9 lbs, with the winning team achieving a yield of only 11 lbs.
The white grape stomp held at the farm in July saw the winning team producing about 20 lbs of juice. In previous years it has been as much as 25 lbs.

The 2018 Harvest

It wasn’t just the yield from the red grape stomp that was affected by frost and critters. According to Kral, Enoch’s Stomp had “a pretty good” harvest and quality of white grape this year. But because of the April frost, the total yield was 25 percent of what they normally get.

One of the electric fences employed by Enoch’s Stomp to prevent animals from venturing into the vineyard.

The grapes crushed by stompers at the weekend were the Chambourcin variety, and the 2018 yield is less than a third of the 2016 harvest. He says the negative impact this year was a combination of the late frost, the deer, and raccoons. These grapes grow in a half acre right next to the electric fencing that surrounds the vineyards, and while they check the fence daily, they always find a spot where the wires are broken.

“The deer eat an awful lot. Can you imagine when we get 20 deer breaking through? They’ll eat 20 lbs; times 20 deer, that’s a lot of grapes. They just go in there and devastate them.

“The raccoons just go into the vineyard and see a bunch of grapes, and pull one or two off and then squish them. But they actually ruin the grapes entirely because once they smash a grape the juice gets onto the outside and then the fruit flies come.” Ultimately, the aromas and flavors of the grapes are affected.

On the positive side, the entire red grape harvest may not be affected because they can keep critters out of some parts of the vineyard, including four acres of a different type of red grape, says Kral.

“We can keep the critters out of there, and even if they get in they can’t eat four acres!”
Later this week the first Black Spanish (Lenoir) grapes will be coming in, and in two to three weeks they will have the Norton variety (Cynthiana), “and both are really good so far.” So there’s hope.

About Enoch’s Stomp Vineyard & Winery

The two partners couldn’t be more different. US-born and bred, Jon Kral has degrees in physical chemistry and emergency medicine. After working in ER for about five years, he decided he needed to do something different. Having always loved plants he got into roses, which later “transformed into grapes.”

Altus Koegelenberg is a fifth generation grape grower whose family owned a 90-acre farm in South Africa. He and his family emigrated decades ago because of the apartheid system in South Africa.

The two men met more than 15 years ago. By then, Koegelenberg had started growing grapes on a small scale. Kral liked the idea and they decided to go into business and grow grapes on a grander scale, which is exactly what they are doing, with the business growing 10 to 15 percent every year.

Enoch’s Stomp currently has 12 acres planted with six grape varieties including popular Blanc DuBois, Villard Blanc, Champanel, and the three mentioned above. They produce 3,000 to 4,000 cases of wine every year which amount to more than 8,000 gallons. Wine produced from the 2018 wine stomps will be available at next year’s wine stomps.

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