Prepping for planting, 2011

Ok, so maybe the title is a bit misleading because I am not talking about Christmas. I am talking about the -other- most wonderful time of the year: Spring! It is a bit premature, I will grant you that. In fact, we do not want a repeat of bud break in 2012. It was a really warm winter, and early spring continued with warm weather. In 2012, we had the earliest bud break we have seen; we had 100% bud break by 26 March 2012. Then we had frost on 12 and 13 April. By that time, the Sangiovese had 6″ shoots. There was a ton of damage from that early bud break. We recovered well enough later in the season, but in that same Sangiovese, 2016 will be our first year of ‘normal’ after the frost damage of 2012. I am anxious for the warmer weather, but I really hope it holds for at least another month so that we don’t have a repeat of 2012.

We just started winter pruning this past week. Slow start because of, you guessed it, the weather. Tuesday was a beautiful warm day; it snowed on Wednesday. No accumulation, but cold, blustery, and wet enough to keep us out of the vines.

It won’t be long until the work starts in earnest. We will get rolling and finish winter pruning in the next couple of weeks. Then we will do prep work for planting day. This year, 2016, will be the first year that we are not adding area to our vineyard, but instead, focusing on back-filling failed vines in the vineyard. I love planting day. It is a long, hard day, but it is also a day of friends and neighbors, good times and laughs, and a day of nuova folgia [shameless plug: if you are a Flipboard user, that is also the name of my magazine on that platform], Italian for new leaf.

The two varieties for which we needed the most material to backfill were not available in 2016. Or rather, neither were available by the time I got around to placing our order, which is why our 2017 order was placed at the same time as our vine order for 2016. That is a lesson I hope I will remember. Early orders are best, if you want to get the vines you need.

This is our eighth year of planting vines, and our seventh ‘planting day.’ In 2009, Eddie and I planted every vine save one [thanks, Sue!], and it was four days, daylight to dark, going just as hard as we could go to get all of them planted. In 2010, we planted about 50% more vines than we did in 2009, but we were able to accomplish that task in a little over three hours, with a lunch break included in that time. What did we learn that first year that improved our productivity so much? That more hands are better for a task like this! In 2010, we had ~30 people in the vineyard on planting day. The number of man-hours in 2009 and 2010 was similar at ~100 man-hours, but we compressed the timeframe by having the right number of planting help. I look forward to planting day every year for the fun, and really, because it is kickoff for the new season.