Viticulture

Part 3: So, you want to plant a vineyard?

The big day had arrived and we were ready to go! Nothing short of a miracle. Our third of an acre was ready and waiting for the vines that would be arriving later that day. The buzz around our house was contagious. Everyone was so excited about the arrival and eventual planting of the vines. It was as if a new baby was about to be born…238 new babies to be exact!

Not quite knowing the toil and trouble that awaited them, my husband and our neighbor Kurt were eager and ready to get going. They had piled several shovels, pruning shears, and a toddler size swimming pool (to keep the vine roots wet) into an open topped trailer hitched to the back of an old Toyota 4Runner (also borrowed from a neighbor). Not a sophisticated entourage to say the least, but definitely sufficient enough to get the job done!

Upon arrival, the vineyard owners warned my husband and Kurt that the vines were already 8 years old, so they had established roots. Little did my husband and Kurt realize just HOW established the roots were. They soon found out!

Each vine required careful attention. The roots were several feet deep and the goal was to dig up as much of the root stock as possible so the vines would have a strong chance of growing in their new home. However, in order to keep the vines happy and healthy while transplanting them, the roots had to be kept wet and were therefore placed in the toddler swimming pool and carefully driven back to our house.

Upon arrival, I quickly had to plant the vines 4 feet apart in each row with a 6 foot space between the rows, also known as 4 x 6 spacing. We had agreed upon this spacing while creating our vineyard plan. I had carefully marked the spaces with bamboo sticks that later would be used to support and train the vines. Little did we realize at the time, that the 6 foot spacing between rows was too narrow and we should have made it wider so that a small tractor could fit. Oh well, you live and learn!

Let’s talk dirt…real dirt! If you’ve ever been to the Dundee Hills AVA, the soil is primarily a reddish brown clay loam called Jory, after the Jory family who settled in the area during the mid 1800s. Jory soil is volcanic in origin and therefore, is high in iron and other minerals. Douglas Fir and hazelnut trees thrive in it and it is also the soil of choice for most grape growers in the Willamette Valley. In fact, in 2011 it was christened the state soil or Oregon. There you go…pretty important and I was covered in the stuff.

Digging in a clay-based soil during the summer months is not something I recommend. In fact, you shouldn’t plant grapevines in the summer. They should be planted in the autumn or early spring. However, did we follow the rules? No! As a result of our bad timing, the hardened ground due to a lack of rainfall made it almost impossible to dig. However, after several hours laboring under the hot sun coupled with endless trips back and forth from the vineyard, we had successfully transplanted 238 pinot noir vines. Definitely worth celebrating with a glass of Pinot Noir!!