Cover Crops

February 26, 2013

This month continues to be warm and relatively dry, bringing us closer and closer to the start of the growing season for our vines.

The balmy February weather has also gotten our cover crops growing. In this picture you can see the mustard blooming all across the Montana Vista block.

The balmy February weather has also gotten our cover crops growing. In this picture you can see the mustard blooming all across the Montana Vista block.

Cover crops are grown from seeds that we sow in the vineyard rows just after harvest.

We use a mixture of mustard, oats, peas, and beans in our cover crops. You can see us mixing the various types of seeds together before sowing in this picture.

We use a mixture of mustard, oats, peas, and beans in our cover crops. Here you can see us mixing the various types of seeds together before sowing.

Each type of plant serves a different purpose in preserving the health of the vineyard; mustard and peas draw beneficial insects and add biomass to the soil, oats help to anchor the soil in place with their fibrous root systems, and beans help fix nitrogen into the soil, improving its’ nutrient status.

Wild plants also play an important role in the vineyard. These calendulas (pot marigolds) are popping up all over the vineyards this time of year. They are powerful attractors of beneficial insects which keep the pest load in our vineyards low.

Wild plants also play an important role in the vineyard. These calendulas (pot marigolds) are popping up all over the property this time of year. They are powerful attractors of beneficial insects which keep the populations of pests in our vineyards low.

While some more rain would be nice, we are still enjoying the mild days. Flowers are opening up all over the property and you can practically feel Spring coming.

Most of the peas and beans have not started to flower yet, but here is one early pea-bloom from the Foxtrot block.

Most of the peas and beans have not started to flower yet, but here is one early pea-bloom from the Foxtrot block.

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Amapola Creek is Richard Arrowoods’ latest winemaking project, to visit the Amapola Creek Winery main site, please click here.

 

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Tying

February 19, 2013

Spring is coming on relatively early this year in Sonoma Valley. In 2012 we saw a warm February which was followed by a cool and rainy March, and so far we’re seeing the same pattern for 2013. It’s impossible for now to say what will happen as the season progresses, but at the moment it’s clear that Spring is coming and the world is waking up.

Mustard is one of the seeds we sow to form our cover crop. It can act as a sort of thermometer for the vineyard, blooming earliest in the warmest spots. This picture was taken in the Southwest corner of the Montana Vista block, where sun exposure and the contour of the terrain contrive to make an especially warm spot.

Mustard is one of the seeds we sow to form our cover crop. It can act as a sort of thermometer for the vineyard, blooming earliest in the warmest spots. This picture was taken in the Southwest corner of the Montana Vista block, where sun exposure and the contour of the terrain contrive to make an especially warm spot. Since it is relatively warm, this is often one of the first spots on the property where the grapes ripen during harvest.

This is the time of year that we start in on a vineyard process called ‘tying’. During tying we take loose canes from last year and fix them to the trellis wires, beginning the process of forming next years’ canopy.

We pruned our vines in January, leaving only the canes that were well positioned for tying.

We pruned our vines in January, leaving only the canes that were well positioned for tying.

We take the loose canes and bend their tips down to the lower trellis wires in a regimen known as the ‘Guyot’ system.

As this years new shoots begin to grow out of the buds on this cane, they will be perfectly spaced and directed to form the open canopy that makes for premium Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.

As this years new shoots begin to grow out of the buds on this cane, they will be perfectly spaced and directed to form the open canopy that makes for premium Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.

One interesting thing to note in the pictures above is that there is only one cane left on the vine, whereas normally we would leave two. If you look carefully at the right hand side of this vine, you will see a tiny piece of cane with two buds on it. This is called a ‘spur’.

Last year was so vigorous that some of the vines, such as this one, became a little stressed. Leaving a spur instead of a cane will result in a slightly smaller canopy with a little less fruit, reducing the stress on the vine for this year and letting it recover its’ strength. This means that our yield will be reduced slightly in 2013, but it also means that the fruit we do get will be of a higher quality. It also means that the vines will survive longer, continuing to produce high quality fruit further into the future.

With high-end wine growing it is sometimes necessary to make trade-offs like this, reducing our overall harvest to ensure the best possible quality in the final product.

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Amapola Creek is Richard Arrowoods’ latest winemaking project, to visit the Amapola Creek Winery main site, please click here.