Starting a new vineyard

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As for what you should do, yeah I’d probably thin out the bushy vines and encourage the energy to be focused on fewer canes. Given your winters, I’d probably do two or even three potential trunks depending on how robust they are.
Thanks. How does this sound for a plan?

I’m already shooting for double trunks. About a third of the vines already have two nice shoots up to 8 feet tall. A lot of those are probably 3/8” thick. I was going to bend them down on the top wire when I get them up (probably next week).

The ones that are approaching the top wire (5’-6”) have pencil sized shoots. I am thinking of just leaving them as is… any subdominant shoots can be dormant pruned.

On the short bushy ones I’ll select the best two vines and cut the rest off.

I had been under the impression you couldn’t do a lot of pruning in the summer. This is all new to me and I don’t want to screw them up.
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Well, it’s been a busy few months both in and out of the vineyard. So it’s time for an update.

The growing season started slowly here with May Gray followed by June Gloom - lots of foggy cool days and practically no hot days. As a result, experienced growers tell me that bud break was about a month late and that things continue to be behind. I don’t have a track record to compare given this is second leaf in my vineyard - but I know this is the slowest year ever for my tomatoes - I don’t even have any ripe cherry tomatoes yet.

Having said that, we are about to experience a week or more of 100+ degree days so I think things might catch up In a hurry.

Regarding the vineyard, the grapes got off to a slow start but then had a growth spurt in the latter half of May. That allowed me to pull off all but a couple of grow tubes. It also meant I had to hurry to install the catch wires - the canes were starting to get five and six feet up in the air without support and the afternoon winds started breaking some of them off.

As the picture below shows, I’ve installed two pairs of wires with a wide bracket at the top. The vineyard slopes the wrong way with South being the high side and North being the low point. So the advice I got was to have a wide V to let more sun in at the top.

View attachment 103339
Being a slow year bothers me a bit because our grapes should be In Mid September to early October and if things are behind it would throw a lot of plans out the window.
My apologies to David for hijacking his thread - which can be found here
It’s been a very busy last month. Bought 1200 pounds of both Primitivo and Tempranillo grapes as part of group projects and have them working away in my garage. We have also harvested our own Syrah, Grenache and Primitivo grapes - a post on each to follow.

A few general thoughts:

This is year two for these vines - and many here on WMT would have not allowed their vines to carry any fruit. Based on advice from local professional winemaker/vitaculturists, I did decide to allow for a small crop. The advice I got was:

For vines that in year one did grow cordons, they were allowed to have one cluster per position.

For ones that reached the cordon wire with a trunk as big as my thumb but without cordons, they got one cluster per side and perhaps 1 or two in the middle.

For vines that did not reach the cordon wire successfully last year, they didn’t get to have any clusters.

We tried to follow these rules but frankly should have started sooner. The advice was to wait for Veraison before thinning. Well, there’s not enough hours in my life to start that late and finish before fruit ripened. Obviously, I’ll get faster as I get more experienced- but I could and should have started a little earlier cleaning out the really obvious no go clusters.

2) Across the board, we had low pH. I’ll need to do some research on why but I suspect that the plants being young was part of the issue. The canopy was not was well developed as it would have been on a more mature vine. I also need to do some soil and petioles testing to see if the limestone I added prior to planting was sufficient and if the vines are getting sufficient nutrients. I’ve got some vines with potassium deficiency and others with Nitrogen deficiency.

3) Time to get going with cover crops for this winter. Last year was a mixed bag - partially because I started too late and partially because we got an insane amount of rain which washed seed (and dirt) down the hill. I’m not planning on 250% of normal this year - but starting earlier is definitely a must do.

But enough of the went wrongs - so very much went right so let’s talk about that in the following posts.
For all five of the wines, I started them with a 2 day cold soak using dry ice and some VR Supra for color. All but the Mourvedre used D254 yeast (Mourvedre was Clos).

Taking the wines in the order we picked them:

Primitivo - Picked 9/27 - ultra early in an attempt to help solve a problem with another batch of purchased Primitivo that was stuck at 7 Brix. So we picked at 22 Brix and a pH 3.1 - a total of 16 gallons of must. This wine flew through fermentation in 3 days, malo in a week - and ended up being a 11% wine which remains highly acidic. Since the stuck wine is now down to 3 Brix and 16% alcohol and pH of 3.7, it is unclear if it will ever finish. So, in retrospect, should have just let these grapes ripen all the way and end up with a smaller amount of decent wine. Live and learn....

Syrah - Picked 9/30. This one was another one with low pH problem - so we let it ripen up to 26.2 Brix and 3.3 pH. As these were the first grapes to hit 20 Brix in the vineyard, the birds simply hammered them and at this point we wanted to salvage something. We probably lost 2/3 of the grapes to bird damage. What was left was about 10 gallons of must which led to about 7 gallons of wine. Currently finishing up malo in a stainless steel keg. Fermented in 7 days to -1. Tastes absolutely awesome.

Grenache - spectacular looking and tasting clusters - we let it hang as long as we dared - and once the birds switched their attention from the Syrah to the Grenache, picked it on 10/3. Brix 27, pH 3.2. This led to an interesting opportunity to water back. So we did, ending up with Brix of 24 and pH of 3.6. Total volume 23 Gallons of must. This one was a slower ferment, finishing in 10 days. Currently undergoing malo but tasting good.

So then we had to leave town for a week... and as a result, the Mouvedre and Carignane hung a little too long and got really really hammered by the birds. I ended up with only 2 gallons of Mourvedre must and 3.5 gallons of Carignane - which we picked on Saturday. Carignane was 26.2 and 3.3 pH. Mourvedre was 28.7 and 3.6. I'd guess we lost 75-80% of each. I'll pitch the yeast on both today.
If yours is a "hobby" vineyard... I guess my 10- 12 backyard vines would be called a tiny, tiny hobby vineyard? :) Looks good, real good!
Thank you. Yup they are both Hobby vineyards - we work hard to maximize their potential with no intent to make any money!!! And the irs and the atf have no need to get involved!
Chris it’s been fun going back and following this thread from the beginning. What a crazy cool and fun process from start to finish. Can’t wait to hear how the wine turns out. Maybe i missed it but which nursery did you end up getting your vines from?
I saw that you mentioned Novavine. That’s where I got mine. My Syrah comes from Tablas Creek vineyard in Paso. It makes a very nice wine. Lots of dark earthy tannins. It took four years for it to age. Unfortunately as it was my first vintage I drank most of it before it made it to 4 years old. Haha.
Lesson learned. Give it time. It’ll get there.
Anyway, congratulations on making wine from your very own vineyard. I’ll keep checking back to see how things are going.
Sorry to hear about the bird problem, I suppose there isn’t much to do about them. We’re lucky not to have that problem, there was a flock of thousands of blackbirds that flew by today., luckily we pick in September.

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