We planted our vines over 3 ½ days in mid-May 2015. We discovered in late June 2015, about 6 weeks after planting, that almost 1200 of our Viognier vines (two rootstocks and two clones) did not “break bud” (that is, leaf out). We had the same problem with our other varieties but on a very small scale, which is expected.
On closer examination with our vineyard consultant, Sebastien Marquet, we discovered the grafted scion on the Viognier vines, in most cases, was dead. (Most all vinifera wine grape vines are grafted. The top, fruit-bearing portion of the vine, e.g., Chardonnay, is grafted onto a rootstock, typically an American native rootstock, in order to avoid the American root louse disease, phylloxera, which American native rootstock resists. In our case, we selected lower-vigor, riparia and 101-14 rootstocks. Because our soils are deep and rich, lower vigor rootstocks should produce healthy vines with good root systems that don’t over-produce leaf canopy.)
Given the size of the Viognier loss, we suspected the Viognier vines were bad, too weak to grow and break bud. We drew this conclusion because our other vine varieties were faring well. The dead vines, almost our entire block of Viognier, would have to be ripped out and replaced.
We reported the unusual loss to our nursery, Mercier California. Its general manager, Sebastian Traviesa, agreed to replace the vines for free. We selected 900 Sauvignon Blanc dormant vines for planting this year and 150 each of Petit Verdot and Viognier for planting next year.
Replanting of the Sauv B. vines took place on June 29, with the help of Sebastien Marquet and his crew. Replanting this late in the season is risky. The Sauv B is vigorous but may not grow enough to survive winter. Fortunately, growing conditions (warm days, cooler nights, plenty of rain) are good for new vines. We remain hopeful.
On the plus side, if the Sauv B. survives the winter, most of our vines will still be 2015 vines producing, we hope, a good 2018 harvest. Also, we’ve introduced a third white variety into our vineyard, giving us 4 reds and 3 whites. We’re a small vineyard but we’ll be able to produce 7 varietals and red and white blends, if we work hard, and Mother Nature cooperates.
This week, the builder completed our vineyard office building (pix below). It’s a simple, very tight, efficient, and beautiful space of natural wood and other natural materials. In addition, we’ve ordered some wine tanks, a pump, press, and crusher/destemmer, all of which will be delivered in July and August 2o15 (tank pix below). We plan to use the office as a temporary tasting room and the barn, completed earlier this year, as a temporary, very small scale, winery.
After delivery of our winemaking equipment, we should be able to secure our state and federal farm winery and bonded winery licenses for commercial production and sale of wine. Since our own first usable harvest won’t be until 2018, we will try to purchase fruit for winemaking before our first harvest.
In May we became a working vineyard. By August, we’ll have everything in place (other than fruit) to become a working winery. Progress on the ground continues. Exciting times.