Time to Irrigate

June 20, 2012




We’ve been having some very warm weather for the last week or so here in Sonoma Valley, and so it is time to begin irrigating our vineyards. If a vineyard is set on a valley floor, where the soil is deep and the water table is relatively high, it is possible to grow grapes that do not require irrigation. All of our vineyards are set high up off of the valley floor, where soil moisture eventually disappears to the point that grapevines cannot survive without some irrigation. This is actually advantageous in terms of wine quality; when a vine has constant access to water, it will take that water and send it straight into the grapes, sort of ballooning them up, diluting their flavor and tannins. Being able to control the water status of our vines allows us to keep the berries small and very flavorful, with plenty of ripe tannin.

This is the device that we use to apply water to the vines. It is called a ‘drip irrigator’, and it is designed to slowly release exactly one gallon of water onto the soil for every hour that we let the water run. Every vine has one drip irrigator stationed near it, so we are able to easily determine how much water each vine is getting by scheduling irrigation to run for a determinate period of time (e.g. if we run the irrigation for eight hours, then every vine will have received eight gallons of water).

While it is currently warm out, the fully grown vines are not really in any danger from water stress yet. However, some of the younger vines, (vines that are replacing those that have died in previous years) are actually in need of water this time of year, so it’s important to start getting water out in the field to keep them alive.

You can see in this picture that water is being sent directly to the base of the young vine to help it establish it’s roots. If you look in the bottom left hand corner of the picture, you will see that there is water being dripped onto apparently open ground. When applying water for adult vines, we like to let the water drip some distance from the base of the trunk, this encourages the vine to develop a more extensive network of roots, which will in turn help it take advantage of the dilute, naturally occurring nutrients available in organically farmed soil.

To visit the Amapola Creek Winery main site, please click here.


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