We realized a few years ago that our demand was growing, and (as we took a break in planting after 2000 to get our marketing in order) that if we didn't start planting soon, we'd start running dangerously short on wine. It takes three years in a best-case scenario to start getting crop off of a new planting, and the thin soils, dry summers and high diurnal swings in temperatures make the best-case scenario rare. So, we analyzed the 30 or so acres that we had left to plant and decided to plant five acres a year for six years. Our demand is growing at about 1000 cases per year, and 5 acres produce (at our yields of about 3 tons per acre) roughly 1000 cases of wine.
We started our new round of planting in the winter of 2005-2006 on what we call "Scruffy Hill" on the far side of Tablas Creek (I posted on this in January 2006). In that roughly 11-acre block we planted head-pruned, non-irrigated Mourvedre and Grenache along with small amounts of Syrah, Tannat and Picpoul. Planting head-pruned without irrigation is much less intensive in the amount of work and expense involved, so we figured we'd start there.
With Scruffy Hill planted, we're now looking to a gorgeous block to the west of the property, with two ridges that run north-south surrounding a shallow valley. The ridge slopes give us nice east- and west-facing hillsides, and the ridge tops are just packed with calcareous deposits:
This has the potential to be one of the best blocks of vineyard we farm. The first stage in planting is to hammer the end posts for the trellises into the ground. I loved the photogenic geometry of these half-finished tasks:
The second stage is digging the trenches that we'll need for irrigation. These are at the tops of the ridges so that the water can flow downhill through the drip irrigation tubing. The two irrigation ditches (east on the left, west on the right):
The third phase is adding the interior posts and stringing the training wires, and only then do we get to plant the vines. The vines that we've decided on are Vermentino and Grenache Blanc for the east-facing slope, and Mourvedre for the south-facing slope. Finally, two more views of the new property. First, the east-facing slope: