Our Mountain Vineyard

Tannins formed in mountain grapes are softer, producing more drinkable wines. Vines grown in thin (3 to 6 feet depth) mountain soils produce soft tannins and small berries for more intense flavors and color. The goal is to produce balanced vines which grow sufficient leaves and canes to support an adequate crop load. The target crop load is 3 tons per acre which can be attained through proper pruning, cluster thinning, trellising and soil nutrition techniques.

The high elevations of mountain vineyards lower both the daytime peak temperatures and also the night-time temperatures; the acid and sugar levels in the grapes is kept to an ideal level.

The Cabernet Sauvignon vines are planted in 8 foot wide rows running up and down the hillside. The vines are 5 feet apart. The Merlot vines are planted on terraces that are 10 feet wide. Those vines are planted 4 feet apart, as the soil has lower fertility. The Petite Verdot and Cabernet Franc are also planted on terraces but are 5 feet apart. The rootstock on most of the vines is 110R but 101-14 is used in some of the more moderate fertility blocks. The Cabernet Sauvignon clones are 191 and 337.

Viticulture Practices

Sustainable and organic (non-certified) viticulture practices are used to nourish the soil and produce balanced vines. Before the vineyard was planted, extensive soil tests were conducted to examine the nature of the soil. Test pits showed soil depths of 3 to 6 feet, over fractured sandstone so the drainage is good, with low to moderate fertility red loam soil. It was found that sufficient levels of naturally occurring nitrogen and potassium exist in the soil, but levels of phosphorus are low. Small amounts of rock phosphorus and wood ashes are applied to each vine by hand. The rock phosphorus and ashes slowly dissolve with the winter rains providing a slow but steady source of phosphorus to the vines.

Compost is added by hand to the soil to provide additional minerals, organic material and beneficial bacteria. The bacteria and other microorganisms break down the naturally occurring minerals in the soil and make them available to the vines. Green manure in the form of clover is grown in the rows. In the spring, the clover is mowed and as the cut clover decays, it slowly provides nitrogen to the vines.

Regarding pest control, there has been no spraying for insects at all since the vineyard was planted. The beneficial insects, such as spiders and lady bugs, do a terrific job at keeping the non-beneficial insects, such as leafhoppers and aphids, at bay. In addition, Western Bluebirds, and wild turkey visit the vineyard help to keep the insect population down.

With no-till viticulture practices, cover crops are grown in the rows between the vines to hold the soil in place on the slopes. Annuals such as barley, annual ryegrass, mustard and clovers have been planted. During the winter, the annuals die and add three thousand pounds of humus per acre per year, which eventually turns to compost.

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