Spring is Coming!
And we begin again...
I talked with our Vineyard Manager, Daniel Fey, today, and learned that there is more to taking care of these vines than I ever realized! Daniel is a vineyard management genius (he'd blush if he knew I said that, so don't tell him) and it was really cool to have the opportunity to sit down with him and talk about what's happening in the vineyard.
The first sign of the new vintage occurs when the vineyard is suddenly filled with workers and their clippers. Pruning off last year's dead shoots and positioning the canes for this new season.
Clearing and pulling the brush took two days. Last year's canes were piled in the rows, awaiting tilling back into the soil. Rather than burning, we till the canes back in, creating additional organic material for the soil.
After all the brush is pulled, two canes remain on each vine. Pruning is necessary to maintain the long-term fertility of a vine, but can also be considered a major crop reduction. These will become this year's canes, from which the fruit-bearing shoots will grow. Here's how Daniel explained it: You have the dirt, the vine, and the first wire. To select which canes are kept, you look for those that are about 1 - 2 hands below the wire, have the right diameter, and correct spacing between nodes. These canes are then tied to the wire to create the base from which this year's shoots will grow.
In our vineyard you will sometimes find spurs. A spur is a cane that has been shortened to two buds. Spurs are necessary where the head of the vine is too high. One shoot from this year's spur becomes next year's cane. If the head of a vine it too high, the canes are more likely to break when tied to the fruiting wire.
What type of trellising system do we use in our vineyards? We use VSP, or Vertical Shoot Positioning with double guyot. The canes are supported by securing them to a number of trellis wires running the length of the rows of vines. As the shoots grow vertically, they are positioned within the wires to maximize leaf exposure to sunlight. This is very important in Oregon due to our short growing season and every minute of sunlight exposure is essential. Double guyot (named after a 19th century French scientist) simply indicates the type of pruning and that there are double canes being trained in opposite directions along wires.
Spacing is another important factor to take into consideration. Our spacing is 7 feet by 4 feet. This indicates that there are 7 feet between each row and 4 feet between each plant. In regards to density, this spacing is considered intermediate. Again, spacing is of importance due to maximizing sunlight and optimizing vineyard land. With this spacing, there is no canopy shading from neighboring rows in either the morning or late afternoon sun.
Another issue regarding spacing that is important is offsetting risks of powder mildew and botrytis. If the vines are planted too closely together, air flow is restricted and the chances for powder mildew and botrytis is higher. Greater airflow, risks are reduced.
What's next? A couple quiet months waiting for the rain to stop and the sun to show its face again. In March or early April, it's time to control the weeds using sustainable vineyard management practices. Then we wait for bud break and bloom!
We'll keep you posted!