Ahh…the world of viticulture in California…such a complex maze of analyzing wine, the new grape vines available, their varieties, their growing habits and their ultimate potential. It’s enough to make one pass out just trying to grasp it all! Thirty five years ago, I planted a few Pinot Noir grapes in our previous homestead garden. I don’t know what rootstock they were on, or how much tannins they produced. I certainly didn’t have any fancy trellis apparatus. I just let them grow up the arbor. During those years that I wasn’t overwhelmed raising kids, working and going to school, I simply harvested the grapes, juiced them in my mixer, added a few ingredients and set a carboy of the concoction out on the cool, back porch to ferment. Many times that wine turned out to be absolutely amazing. Sometimes it was just some killer vinegar. I didn’t care. It was all good.
My, how times have changed. As I am planning on putting in a tiny, postage stamp, “vineyard,” (it’s literally only 25 vines,) I find that these days, it’s a big, scientific affair. Are my Pinots Dijons, or Wädenswils? 115s, or 777s? Is the rootstock resistant to Phylloxera? Is my soil too acidic…does it have too much clay? Am I too close to the ocean? Which trellis system should I go with? Do I really have to “romance” the vines? How do I do that?
Honestly, that’s just to much to think about for a couple of dozen, little vines. I went ahead and ordered some plants, but then I got a frantic call from the nursery saying that they only had half an order of one clone of Pinot Noir and apologetically asked if I would accept another clone to fill out the order. I could hear the gasp of astonishment when I told them that was fine and that I didn’t really care. Besides, I had a few vines that I’d already planted from last year and I didn’t know what type of clones they were. They turned out to be Wädenswils. So now, I have half Dijons and half Wädenswils. I figure that I’ll be able to compare the productivity of the 2 types and blend their juices together…a crazy, fun, science experiment, so to speak.
The vines have arrived and I’ve been busy getting my mini, hillside site ready for planting. I can guarantee you that I do not have too much clay in my soil. In fact, it’s mostly rocks, as my trusty, Mantis rototiller can attest to. But as I understand it from the dreamy winos, rocky soil is good…very good. It keeps those vines struggling to get their nutrition and “struggling vines” make the best wine, right? Yee gads! Rocky, or clay soil, they’re going in and that’s that. I’ll worry about the trellis system later.
So now, I’m halfway done with the planting and I’m excited that I’ll hopefully be able to harvest my first wine grapes in 2, or 3 years. I already have some table grapes growing nearby and they’re doing great, so I have high hopes for my small patch of pinot noir plants. I’m sure that I’ll never be able to make enough wine from them to fulfill my yearly need, (ahem) but they’ll put a dent in it. Plus, winemaking is good fun! I’m already starting to save up wine bottles for reuse…which is also fun. Cheers! Here’s to romancing the new grape vines!