Push it. Push it real good!

Pushing shoots.

Pushing shoots.

I went out to my small vineyard this morning to water and check the progress of the vines. After planting, I had covered each vine with a mound of straw. In communication with Sam Caselli at Novavine, I learned that the planted vines do not need to be mounded over with soil – straw will do just as good of a job insulating them from extreme temperatures.

I visit the site every other day to water and have been peeking under the straw to see how things are coming along. Initially, I was concerned because five or maybe six vines (of 44) were not showing any signs of budding. Today, I am happy to report, I have bud break on all 44 vines.

Normally, in an established vineyard, bud break occurs in the spring as the ambient temperatures rise and the plants receive increased sunlight – around March in the Northern hemisphere and September in the Southern hemisphere. These vines, however, were kept dormant at the nursery until a few weeks ago. This is achieved by keeping them in a cold, dark place. As soon as they were shipped, they began to come out of dormancy and at the time of planting some were already budding.

A Straggler with nascent buds.

A Straggler with nascent buds.

At this point, though, most are pushing robust shoots. While there is one straggler in the bunch, most are starting to take on a green color. In the previous year, the grafts accumulated starches which will support the development of the shoots until they can begin photosynthesis.

For this reason, I have been loosening the straw mounds to allow the buds to develop into straight shoots. I still want to protect these delicate structures from the heat but I want them to start getting more light. This may be an overabundance of caution, but as they develop a more green color, I will expose them completely.

The main goals for the rest of this season is to put in an irrigation system and ensure these vines get established and thrive. The first goal should be easily achieved with supplies from a larger home improvement store. I’ll write more about this once It’s been done.

Towards the latter goal, I will need to get my soil analyzed. It’s rather varied and since this is a hillside, fertility may be an issue. In the coming weeks, I’ll take some samples from around the site and send them off for analysis. Based on those findings, I’ll decide on the type of fertilizer these vines will need – if any.

Another important thing is to determine the depth of my soils. To do this, I’ll have to drive in some long stakes or rebar as deep as possible. This will be quite a physical task – not so much the driving in, as the extraction.

Spare benchgrafts.

Spare benchgrafts.

As I mentioned in my first post about this vineyard, I received 70 benchgrafts from Novavine. I put in 44, discarded one and planted 14 into four-gallon planters as backups (in case some of the vines in the vineyard fail). That leaves 11 vines sitting in a bucket of water in the shade and pushing nice green leaves. I would hate to see them go to waste.

If any Los Angeles area wine bloggers have the space, I can share these grafts with those interested. A very large planter might suffice for decorative purposes, but the recommended spacing is no closer than five feet between vines and no closer than 6 feet between rows.

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About SUAMW

Father, husband, physician, amateur guitarist, wine lover, wine writer, wine grower and wine maker trying to do it all within eye shot of downtown Los Angeles. http://www.shutupandmakewine.com http://twitter.com/Dr_Arthur_P
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6 Responses to Push it. Push it real good!

  1. Why do I get the feeling that a change in career is in the making???

    Arthur, one caution: don’t get too attached to that water. After the third year or so, you might want to consider dry farming the vines, so that you encourage them to dig deeper for their sustenance. This is believed to be a good terroir-building device in them.

  2. Dylan says:

    Isn’t that progress beautiful? It’s amazing how quickly life takes hold and begins to grow. We used to use that exact same straw bed method with my parent’s garden–it always did a great job. Keep the updates coming, Arthur.

  3. Jeff Miller says:

    This response is to Thomas Pellechia’s comment. For the reasons I set out in my post at http://artisanfamilyofwines.com/blog/?p=368 I am not a believer in dry farming in general. I question whether you could ever successfully dry farm this site, as it doesn’t seem to get very much water. Even if you could, it would be at the sacrifice of yield, with no reason to think you’d gain any quality.

  4. John Kelly says:

    Right on Jeff! Dry-farming is a myth. They “dry-farm” on the Continent (i.e. have restrictions on irrigation) because most viticultural regions get at least a few cm of rain every month during the growing season. Here in California, show me a “dry-farmed” vineyard and I will show you a vineyard with a water table accessible to the vines all season long.

    Arthur – I have only put Aglianico in two vineyards, ones I no longer consult for. But I can tell you about Syrah and Sangiovese (among others) – run them out of water after veraison and they shut down. Once this happens the sugar in the berries can only increase through dehydration – and the phenolics essentially stop developing. You want high quality? Until we know more about Aglianico, practice yield restriction (Aglianico makes HUGE clusters), keep the water stress high from flowering to veraison, and then irrigate ad libidum to a couple days before harvest.

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  6. I agree “dry farming” is a myth: if farming were totally dry you wouldn’t be able to grow anything. But there are definite reasons not to grow certain plants in certain locations and there are definite reasons to grow certain plants in certain locations.

    Obviously, problems arise when farmers attempt to grow things that don’t belong there. There’s only one way top determine whether or not you need irrigation, after you check your growing season rainfall stats, of course.

    I do question the concept, espoused by those who routinely find themselves de-alcoholing their wines, that they do it because they don’t get enough rain and they do get more than enough heat. Maybe they should grow cactus.

    We do not have dominion over any select parcel of the earth–we just like to believe that we do.

    In any case, I was tweaking Arthur with my comment, as I know he is in for a great learning experience.

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