The vineyard is completely dormant as of early March, but the cool weather is slowly losing its grip, and the buds will soon begin to swell. Some false spring weather some weeks back fooled some of our fruit trees into flowering, but fortunately the vines did not bite on the fake, as a series of frosty days ensued. We are busily working on off-season projects including some work to more evenly distribute our irrigation blocks and improve tractor turnaround room. The biggest job–now more than half-complete–is the winter pruning of the vines, a very satisfying but labor-intensive endeavor.
The most important change in the off-season is that co-proprietor Andy is on the farm fulltime now and will be personally providing a much greater fraction of the farm labor. We anticipate that this will allow the individual attention to vines required for achieving optimal vine balance. Hired labor is expedient and necessary at times, but it’s very hard to communicate instructions that are practical enough to be implemented by a hired crew that take into account an individual vine’s needs.
We think our experiment with the inclusion of “kicker canes” was successful last year in our barbera as a means of reigning in vigor, though they certainly add to the labor at multiple steps. We are using kicker canes again this year in the barbera, but this time have taken pains for a more optimal placement of these to be more readily removed later.
We look forward to a great year–maybe closer to the mean in terms of timing–and hope for some strong showings for wines made from our grapes in regional competitions. Prices and availability for the 2011 growing season are now posted.