State of the Vineyard Address

Today, thanks to the lovely moderate temperatures and delightfully absent frost at our vineyard site,  there are healthy and happy dormant vines to report.

The Ram’s Gate Estate vineyard grows in a prime location where weather hardly ever spikes or plummets, frost is rare, and growing seasons are long and luxurious. A grapevine paradise! While winter and early spring frosts threaten most vineyards in Sonoma County and Napa Valley, our lucky little spot doesn’t get any, so the fact that our vines bud early, often still in the (not-so-)dead of winter, isn’t a threat. In fact, it’s an advantage enabling an extra long growing season. Longer hang time in our moderate climate allows our fruit to ripen fully, gradually. (Two challenges in winegrowing (growing grapes for winemaking) include ripening fully and ripening slowly. Kind of an inverse relationship. You usually get one without the other, but in our prime spot, we get both because of early budbreak and moderate temperatures. With grapes, as with anything I imagine, you never want ripening to happen too quickly. Slow and steady wins the race, with more time for beautiful complexity to develop and saunter through the finish.

The fifteen year old Pinot Noir vines you see above along with the five year old Pinot Blanc vines below are in a state of dormancy right now.

Once the vines start to come back to life (Vineyard Manager Ned Hill estimates 3-4 weeks), and their literal and proverbial juices start aflowin’ (not a technical term), there will be more activity to report.

In the meantime, the cover crops are alive and working hard. Ned plants bell beans and barley between the vines to fertilize the soil.

Bell beans are pretty rad. Did you know that legumes can fix nitrogen in their roots? The vineyard crew inoculates bacteria called rhizobia in the soil, which then fix nitrogen in these little white balls tangled up in the roots (see below). Once the vines start to wake up in early spring, the crew will then “disk” all the cover crops back into the soil, providing a plentiful and nutritious source of nitrogen to fertilize the vines. As a result, we don’t have to use any other fertilizers on the vines. It’s all about yeast and bacteria, people.

While we let our sleeping vineyard lie, things are always alive and dynamic in the winery… stay tuned for updates from the other side of the vine!

Britt Starr

Special thanks to Vineyard Manager Ned Hill from La Prenda for the vineyard-side chat. See you in a few weeks to check on the sap flow!

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