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Winter Observations In The Vineyard

Josh’s Update

Win­ter is a sea­son of patience in the vine­yard. We watch and wait, anx­ious­ly sit­ting on our hands, to ensure the new grow­ing sea­son is as boun­ti­ful and suc­cess­ful as it can be for our Cal­i­for­nia win­ery.

The first rains we expe­ri­enced in ear­ly Decem­ber were so wel­come as they gave a much-need­ed boost to our cov­er crop. Cov­er crop is a nat­ur­al nitro­gen builder; this year, we plant­ed peas, legumes, and bar­ley as our cov­er crop to nour­ish the vine­yard soil (see pho­to below). This nour­ish­ment will give our grapes the best chance at suc­cess­ful yields this new grow­ing season. 

The rains aid­ed in our efforts to spread addi­tion­al nour­ish­ment in the form of com­post through­out our fields. Com­post is essen­tial to build organ­ic mat­ter, and ulti­mate­ly, health­i­er soils. We watched the rain dri­ve the com­post into the soil and are thank­ful for its assistance!

New Year Downpour

Ear­ly Jan­u­ary brought a del­uge of rain to Cal­i­for­nia! For some, it was cat­a­stroph­ic, but for Thibido Vine­yard, it was wel­comed and man­aged. Since our ear­ly days of soil prepa­ra­tion for the vine­yard plant­i­ng, we have imple­ment­ed var­i­ous mech­a­nisms of ero­sion con­trol to pre­serve and pro­tect our vine­yard and the pre­cious soil. 

Heavy rains in 2018 and 2019 height­ened our atten­tion and demand­ed more efforts in proac­tive ero­sion con­trol in place. Before every win­ter, we spread hay on the steep­est slopes to slow water ero­sion. Our pro­lif­ic cov­er crop sig­nif­i­cant­ly reduces ero­sion by dis­pers­ing the force of rain­fall in the vine­yard and encour­age soil reten­tion. In 2019 we added a dry well, or drainage pit, at the low­est point of our vine­yard to retain and deter heavy runoff in heavy rains (see pho­to below). Because the vine­yard has both steep and gen­tly slop­ing hill­sides, ero­sion con­trol is a seri­ous mat­ter. We also main­tain our diver­sion ditch­es and keep wad­dles staked in place year-round to assist in water runoff on the prop­er­ty. Thank­ful­ly, our efforts have paid off this win­ter and the vine­yard has enjoyed a wet, dam­age-free rainy season.

dry well drainage pit, rocks vineyard thibido estate landscape

Waiting on the Vineyard

We wait and assist as min­i­mal­ly as pos­si­ble to allow the earth to do what it needs to pre­pare the soil for the next grow­ing sea­son. Our vines have gone into win­ter mode, where­in they focus on grow­ing their root sys­tems and build­ing under­ground sta­bil­i­ty. The vine trunks store up car­bo­hy­drates in the win­ter to use lat­er in the grow­ing season. 

If weeds arise dur­ing the win­ter sea­son, we will rid them by hand hoe­ing. Usu­al­ly, weed con­trol is very min­i­mal dur­ing the win­ter, but also essen­tial as we do not want the weeds to pil­fer vital soil nutri­ents away from the vines.

Final­ly, rodent con­trol is anoth­er task we wait and watch. If rodents become abun­dant, we set traps and allow our nat­ur­al preda­tors to help elim­i­nate rodents that dam­age the vines and make a home in our fields.

While we watch and wait, we aren’t idle; rather, we spend lots of time think­ing and plan­ning for the antic­i­pat­ed grow­ing sea­son. Specif­i­cal­ly, I’m think­ing about prun­ing. I may start prun­ing ear­ly this year, but it is all depen­dent on the weath­er. Prun­ing is an essen­tial part of crop tend­ing and plan­ning. I also reflect on the pre­vi­ous year’s crop, which helps me esti­mate prun­ing tech­niques to ensure we hit our crop yield goals this year.

Over­all, this is a qui­et time in our grow cycle, but one that is so impor­tant to ensure our future growth is suc­cess­ful. We can’t wait to share more details as the sea­sons progress!