January 31, 2020 15:21
Mill Station Vineyard is one of Dutton Ranch’s oldest vineyards at 44 years old, and also their largest, at over 60 acres. As vines age, they don’t produce as well, and the vineyard also had some vine disease (eutypa dieback), so the Duttons are beginning a replanting process for the site. They began with a 25-acre block, and will replant another 20 acres in 3-4 years.
The process began in November of 2018, when they started pulling out trellising, cut the vines off, and removed their tops.
In April of 2019, the remaining vine stumps were pulled out, then they tilled the soil.
In June, they chiseled out the roots, then began prepping the soil.
On July 19, the block was ripped with a wing tine ripper, then the soil was leveled.
On July 24, the new vineyard laid out.
With the replant, they also changed the direction of the vineyard 90 degrees, so that the vines are in a North/South direction. At the same time, they updated the spacing from the old-school 12x6 (12 feet between rows, 6 feet between vines) to the more modern norm of 8x5.
On August 1, they started planting the vines. Rather than plant rootstock and then graft onto that a year later, they planted bench grafts, which are the rootstock and clone already together. They also upgraded the clone they planted from the old Clone 4 to the newer version, called Clone 17, or Robert Young clone. It’s a good, solid Chardonnay that should perform well at this site. A total of 28,000 vines were planted on the 25 acres.
When the vines are planted, cartons are placed on top. You may have noticed these and wondered what milk cartons are doing out in new vineyards. The cartons protect the young vines from deer, rabbits, and cold weather. With the top of the carton closed, it creates a little greenhouse, keeping the tender young vine warm. The carton also encourages the vine to grow straight up as it reaches for the sun.
Next up: When the vine grows to about 18’ above the first wire and is about the thickness of a pencil, it will be cut back for training on the wires. That should happen in May or June of 2020, so stay tuned for that update!