One of the inevitabilities about farming a vineyard is that at some point you are going to have to do some occasional replanting. Our vineyard is entering its 21st leaf and as caretaker for those 21 years I have a keen sense of its strengths as well as its needs. In the pursuit of continued improvement some subtle changes made over the years seem to be paying off and I thought that I would share some of the things that I have learned.
The largest change is the wide use of root stocks – it is now standard procedure not only for the purpose of resisting Phylloxera but also in matching small micro-climates within each vineyard block with the rootstock and (fruit bearing) scion best suited for that site. As an example – in a more vigorous site we might plant the rootstock Riparia Gloire to lower vigor and adjust the ripening cycle. The study of getting the correct mix of rootstock and scion in the right place is a major change in the way we farm. We have also redesigned the trellis for added support to the canopy in the replanted area.
In addition, our vine spacing has tightened over the years. We now allow just three feet between each plant and six feet between the rows – just enough room for a narrow tractor. Our entire approach to soil management has evolved over the years - we encourage natural plants (cover crop) to grow between the rows, we aerate the soils in winter months with a chisel plow, and use home-made compost in areas of low fertility to produce very positive results.
As we are winding down the harvest of 2010 and reflecting on the year to come I plan to take advantage of what we have learned over the years and continue to improve our vineyards.