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2011 September 13 | Project Sunlight - A Winemaker's Education

Archive for September 13th, 2011

Planning for the Spring Planting

Well, we still haven’t come to terms on the vines, but we’re confident we’ll get there, so we’re turning part of our attention to the work necessary to prepare the vineyard for planting.  And believe me, there’s lots to do.

Behind me, a view of the site of the future Nelson County vineyard.

First, the decisions.  I say first, because the thinking part comes before the physical labor part.  And I’ve learned just enough about vineyard management to know that the thinking part is going to be a lot easier than the physical labor part of this enterprise.

But that’s not to say that the thinking part is easy.  Nope, not on your life, Bud. There’s a number of decisions to be made.  Such as, which way to orient the rows.

The consensus in the viticultural world appears to be that rows should run as close to north to south as possible, so that the sun falls full force on the eastern side of the canopy in the morning and the western side in the afternoon.  There are secondary concerns as well.  For example, if your vineyard is on a significant slope, the rows should run perpendicular to the slope, which minimizes erosion.  Or, if a north-south rows would be too short to be practical – which is to say, if your vineyard is some kind of long, very narrow rectangle – you can orient in a different direction.

However, secondary considerations always lose to the prime directive, which is that rows should run north to south.

In our case, we are somewhat handicapped because the trees surrounding our hobby vineyard limit sun in the morning.  Morning is a critical time.  Moisture accumulates during the night, and it’s important that the canopy dry as quickly as possible in the morning.  That’s why an eastern aspect – a slope, or even flat land, that opens to the east – is so desirable.

Other forces of nature, wind in particular, also dry out vines, but while the sun is reliable in that it appears every morning, wind can’t be counted on.  On the mornings that we’ve woken to a steady breeze, we’ve noticed that everything dries quickly.  (We probably noticed that years and years ago, but since it didn’t matter to us until now, we didn’t take much note of it.)  So, despite the generally untrustworthy nature of wind, we are now trying to figure out if it tends to blow in a particular direction in our little valley.  If so, then perhaps it would pay to forget the conventional wisdom and go with a different approach.

There’s more, of course.  I’ll be continuing this discussion for some time to come.  Thank God we’re still on the thinking part.

September 13, 2011 | By | Reply More
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