This time of year in the vineyard is unique. The mild days, deep blue skies and warm sun give evidence of the summer to come, but the frosty nights, bright green cover crop and bare vines give evidence of the winter past.
It's one of the busiest times of year in the vineyard, as we finish the pruning, get the cover crop disked, spaded or mowed, and start our frost protection. You can see the overlapping seasons and the work in progress more clearly now than at any other time of year. A photo, taken from behind our spader, gives you a sense of the newly turned under earth (in front) and the areas we haven't gotten to yet (to the right):
We need to bring the cover crop under control for a variety of reasons. With the winter's rain and its associated risk of erosion largely in the rear-view mirror, it's time to eliminate the vines' competition for the soil's available water. It's also important to knock down the cover crop and allow the cooler air at the surface to drain downhill rather than having it pool around the vines and cause frost damage. Finally, returning the cover crop to the soil renew's the earth's fertility and provides nutrients for the vines to draw on the rest of the year. Depending on how rich the soil already is we'll choose to either mow the grasses and leave them to dry or disk or spade them into the earth. All this has to happen in the next six or so weeks, and with 105 acres under vine, most of it on rugged hillsides, it's a long task.
I climbed to the top of the hill that overlooks our nursery buildings, where the contrast is stark between the unpruned Chardonnay vines with their thick cover crop and the pruned Roussanne vines, neatly spaded in the last week. A one-minute video tells the tale better than the proverbial thousand words:
I'm sure we'll be sharing many photos in coming weeks and months of the newly sprouted vines and the 2013 growing season that is rapidly approaching. This is where it all begins.