Once harvest is behind us, we winterize the vineyards to prepare them for next year’s season. This means spreading compost, fertilizing, applying cover crops and taking care of the drainage in anticipation of the winter rains.
We compost to beef up the soil for higher yields in the vineyards that need it, as well as to increase the quality of fruit. Compost helps with water retention, adds organic matter and microscopic microrizea, so the vines are better able to mine the soil for minerals. Fertilizers, which we add either via foliar sprays or through the drip irrigation system, also give those vines that can use it an extra boost to hopefully increase production.
In most of our vineyards, we’re using a special blend of cover crop seed that’s shallow rooted so that we promote competition early in the season but not later when water can be scarce. In some vineyards, such as Galante, we’re actually adding ongoing competition by alternating rows of grass with tilled ground in order to devigorate the vineyard.
Because we farm so many hillside vineyards, we have a lot of storm drains and v-ditches that need tending so they’re clear and flowing when the rains hit. We also put out straw wattles—those snakes of straw that you may have seen staked on hillsides to slow the flow of water and catch sediment. As we prepare for the rains, we also winterize our irrigation systems, flushing the water out and turning them off to keep freezing water from doing damage.
When spring begins and budbreak happens, frost protection is the next order of business. Although it seems odd, we run overhead sprinklers on the vines during freezing weather to protect the buds. As water freezes, the ice never drops below 32 degrees as long as it remains wet on the outside.