Ari's Vineyard Blog III
We were blessed with wonderful planting weather as we got the last vines into the ground this season. The clouds and rain provided a gentle, nurturing environment for the vines to set root.
Planting out the new blocks of Gruner Veltliner has been an absolute treat compared to inter-planting established blocks. The ground has been freshly prepared, and we are working on a blank canvas, digging into soft dirt where we are not competing with established root systems. I am taking a particular satisfaction in setting up these new blocks. It is an opportunity to see the entire process through, and will serve as a great learning experience for the next few years, watching and engaging with these plants through the most critical stages of their development.
Late last fall, we tore up all the old posts, removed the wires, and dug up all the existing vines in a .8 acre block, leaving the ground lumpy and unsettled, holes and mounds everywhere. Once the ground had thawed in early spring, we prepped the earth by deep ripping and then discing.
Preparing a field is a very meditative experience, driving straight up and down the rows at a slow speed, carefully watching the tractor tires to ensure a straight line. As the soil is worked, the tractor is followed by a loyal bunch of blackbirds and robins, hopping behind, stuffing their beaks with worms.
As well as planting, we have been slowly chipping away at tucking and shoot thinning the older vines. It is a very slow pass through each row, as we are mindful of many things at once. It is a job that will greatly determine our yield and quality of fruit come fall. As a general rule, we try to leave one hand space between each shoot growing up from the tied canes. This allows for good airflow and more space through the canopy and fruiting zone to keep mildew down. We are also suckering the vines, removing new shoots on the trunk, and siting good options for next year’s canes. The catch wires are pulled over the chosen shoots and are clipped together on both sides of the row to make the familiar vertical shoot positioned (VSP) vineyard hedge. We are aiming to allow dappled light to come through the canopy, as congestion or clumps of growth will culture an environment ideal for mildew and bortrytis. A vineyard mentor once told me that in a perfectly thinned canopy, you would not know whether a naked person walking on the other side of the row is a man or woman. Upon sharing this information with the crew, it was suggested that we all work naked to ensure good quality control... Maybe next year.