Friday, March 5, 2010

The vineyard has been pruned and the buds are beginning to swell. During the first year of production every vine we have kept trained up must be basal bud pruned. We only basal bud prune once. The years following we will spur prune the vineyard meaning we will leave 2 buds on each spur attached to the cordon. We will have a total of 5-6 spurs on each cordon arm, and from each of these shoot positions we will grow a canopy and ripen 2 clusters per shoot, thus on average each individual vine will have 10-12 clusters of grapes per vine.
In the picture above of the vineyard following pruning every 4 inches or so you can see little bumps coming out of the cordon arm. From these spots along the arm the shoots will grow upward and we will train the growth with the use of catch wires also pictured

Picture taken today shows the chardonnay is
beginning budbreak. Typically the pinot noir at
our site is delayed a couple weeks behind the
chardonnay so we always look to the chardonnay
for budbreak initiation. Once the chardonnay
blocks have 100 budbreak and several leaves out
we will make are first fungicide spraying pass to
prevent mold and mildew from taking hold in the
vineyard. Typically we will need to make 10-12
passes through the vineyard from mid March-
August to spray for mold and mildew.

The cooler wet weather we have been experiencing lately has been prolonging budbreak especially on our pinot noir blocks. Below is a cool picture of rolling fog making its way past the vineyard. The extra rain we have been getting is going to be extremely beneficial for us this year as we will be able to hold off on irrigating a little longer into the season.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Bowlus Vineyard


Our twenty-five acres of pinot noir and chardonnay are rooted upon a rolling Carmel Valley ridge rising 1250 feet in elevation overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Carmel bay eight miles in the distance. Planted in 2008, the vineyard is coming into production in fall 2010. Our creed and passion is to grow wine of distinction and to honor the unique soils, setting, and micro-climate that we are privileged to call our own.


From the beginning our challenge has been to marry the unique soils and geography of our site with the right clones, rootstocks and management decisions to endow our vineyard with the ideal balance.

The high concentrations of Carmel shale and chalk rock mixed together with the loam in our extremely low vigor soils provide adequate drainage and the ideal environment for our vines to struggle in search of nutrients and water. The early ripening clones of chardonnay 96 and 15 and our pinot noir clonal selections of 777, Pommard, 115, and 828 were carefully selected and planted throughout the vineyard in the spring of 2008. Each distinct block of the vineyard was researched and planted with the goal of providing the optimum exposure, environment and soil depth for each vine to express its true character.

Viticultural Philosophy

Our wine growing philosophy is rooted in the ideal of respecting our land through sustainable farming and yielding to Mother Nature ‘s sequence. We manage our vines throughout the growing season with minimal irrigation. We recognize each growing season offers a unique challenge onto itself. Our goal is to grow wine grapes of incredible quality and thus yields are extremely small per acre. Through meticulous care and attention, while not intervening too much in the vineyard we strive to achieve a fine balance and harmony between man and vine.

Planting, First and Second Leaf

Prior to planting we ripped, disced and amended the soil with lime and gypsum to get the soils in the best possible condition for the vines.

Following the soil work the vineyard was laid out using a survey system and over 50,000 biodegradable straws went into the ground all in perfect alignment to map out each vineyard block. Followed by 50,000 rebar training stakes which will secure the vine and aid in its growth for the first few years.

Prior to planting after each block was laid out with rebar and aligned properly to our 3x6.5ft and 3x7 ft spacing, the vineyard irrigation system was installed and our 12 blocks were plumbed underground with a complicated irrigation system.

Our main water line was run down the center of our vineyard blocks it is the area of the picture without grass.

We finished the irrigation system just in time for planting in early April.
Each dormant bench graft vine is a combination of a selected rootstock and varietal clone. They come grafted from the nursery in labeled lots (for example 777-1103-P). Over the 25 acres of the vineyard we planted 6 different clones on two different rootstocks.

The dormant bench graft vines are stored in water in picking bins until planted.

Planting a vineyard is hard work and takes a very skilled crew with years of training to properly plant and gently compact soil surrounding each vine. If the vine is over exposed or underexposed by just a little bit the results are terrible. It is also critical to take the time to thoroughly compact the hole where the vine has been planted by slowly adding shovel layer then stamping the air out and then repeating until the vine is completely secure and not overexposed. Our crew did this over 50,000 times with a success rate at over 99%!!!! Incredible and a testament to the meticulously skilled hard work of our vineyard planting crew.

Following planting, our first growing season or "First Leaf" consisted of replanting any struggling plants and water management of the newly planted vines. Our vines received an average of 2 gallons per vine per week from April- September.

Cannon and Daschund friend "Guiness" foraging for gophers
The vineyard pictured above is less than 6 months old at the time of photo.

Pictured below our dog Cannon in a vineyard row next to newly planted rootstock. We grafted onto this rootstock during the fall of 2008 with cuttings of pinot noir clone 115 from our neighboring Pelio vineyard. As you can see in the picture there is a drip tubes located above the vines. Attached to the drip line are drip emitters with thin spaghetti tubes attached that allow water to be accurately delivered to the vines root zone even on the windiest days. Each drip emitter is pressurized to emit 1/2 gal per hour.
Cannon... aka "Monsieur Canners", "Gopher Hunter"

The Vineyard in its second year. The white growing tubes protect the young vines and propel the growth of shoots upward. During the second year the goal is to protect and grow the vines. One of the enemies of a young vineyard are rodents and in particular gophers. These cute, cuddly and destructive little fellers can cause massive losses in a newly planted vineyard moving from block to block while you track them. Once you think you have got them cornered they pop up again right where they started to feed on the roots and trunks of the vines. One way which we hunt these little guys is our vineyard dog Cannon. We simply follow Cannon around the vineyard and his nose leads us to gopher caves and trails buried beneath the vines.

During the "Second Leaf" our goal is to start getting enough lateral growth and shoot thickness that we can start to train a strong single shoot up onto a cordon training wire. Once the cordon shoot thickness is close to a pinky size in diameter and trained up onto the cordon wire we are ready to come into year 3 or "Third Leaf" and have a portion of the vineyard in production.

The decisions and work following the growing season during the months from November-February going into our "Third Leaf" year are critical. Pruning is extremely important as the blocks we choose to go into production during the third year need to be basal bud pruned.
Each cut on the vine at this juncture has consequences that will last the lifetime of the vineyard.

We just finished pruning and are close to bud break. Pruning photos coming soon!