From the purchase of the property in 2007, the next two years were spent with the gruelling task of preparing the site for planting, from aerating the soil, to picking off rocks, to hammering in block posts, to installing the irrigation system.
A year before planting was to commence, the soils were aerated through the process of deep tilling. Then, 3,500 tones of rock – enough to fill 1.5 Olympic-sized swimming pools – was handpicked off the vineyard and either fashioned into stone walls, or crushed into gravel to create traction in the vineyard headlands. From there, composted cow manure was applied to enhance the organic content of the soil, and a cover crop was planted to prevent soil degradation and erosion prior to planting.
The land was then surveyed to indicate where end and in-row posts were to be placed. Hand split untreated cedar end posts and galvanized steel in-line posts, chosen to avoid the chemical drift associated with chemically-treated wooden posts, were then pounded into the soil, and then straightened into line by hand.
A ‘Ranch’ irrigation system with approximately 2.5 irrigation valves per micro block, or translating into approximately 1000 vines per valve, was installed on the property. Not only does this system allow for the opening and closing of valves to be managed by a solar-powered weather station that also collects minute to minute soil moisture data, evapo-transpiration rates, temperature data, as well as relative humidity, rainfall, wind speed, and wind direction data, but it also does so using a Cloud-based mobile app. The system therefore allows the manager to adjust the irrigation regime in different parts of the same block, watering only the parts that require it, for precisely the amount of time they require.
Once all of the irrigation valves were put in place, a Maxi-Jet below-canopy nozzle irrigation system was installed. This system sprays under and in between vines, as well as between the vineyard rows themselves, allowing a cover crop to flourish. The presence of a cover crop not only creates another means to control vine vigor, it also increases bio-diversity in the blocks by allowing more beneficial insects to thrive, while at the same time reducing the amount of irrigation water to be required.