Page Filling the Gaps

What do you do when a grapevine dies?  The simple answer is that you plant another one in its place.  As you navigate the process, however, you come to the realization that there is nothing simple about it!

Due to some cold winter temperatures a few years back, many of our vineyard blocks were left with significant vine death (up to 25% in some spots).  Of the surviving vines, many suffered trunk damage to the extent where new suckers had to be brought up from the ground to re-establish the trellis.  As a result, our yields were reduced for four consecutive years until the vines recovered and/or were replaced.

Once planted, a replacement vine usually doesn’t usually produce fruit until its third season.  They are finicky little buggers that need copious amounts of sun, water, nutrition, protection, structural support and general TLC.  They are usually flanked by two old, grumpy vines with deep roots (who were getting used to the extra leg room) that are unwilling to yield any of those aforementioned necessities to this new kid on the block.  You begin to see the conundrum.  The vineyard as a whole still has to be farmed the same in terms of tilling, hoeing, etc.; but now every practice has to be tailored around these fragile young vines.

The first line of protection for the little guys is the insertion a small stake beside each vine.  This prevents the tractor-operated grape hoe from ripping them out of the ground as it removes weeds between the other mature vines.  The second line of defence is a “jacket”, of sorts, that envelopes the vine and protects it from herbicides, mechanical damage and rodents.  Known as “grow tubes”,  they also provide some insulation on those frosty, nervous mornings in the spring.

The temptation is to try to get fruit by the second season of growth, but the smart farmer knows that fruit takes energy from the growing vine, and deep roots are more important than a temporary gain in crop.  For this reason the replants are pruned right back to a couple of buds over winter, and any clusters of grapes that do appear the next season are trimmed off.

So the next time you stop by our winery, make sure to take a stroll out to the Sauvignon Blanc and take a peek into the ugly pink grow tubes that dot the vineyard.  The little vine you see inside may one day produce fruit that makes the cut in one of our wines.  Until then, I just hope Dad doesn’t plow it under by mistake…

One Response to “Filling the Gaps”

Matt Bosela

Breezed through your blog Wes and really enjoy your writing.

Great work on your winery website as well – I’ll have to contact you sometime soon about perhaps buying a case of the Cab Sauv.

Keep up the great work,
Matt

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