At our Texas High Plains estate vineyard, Narra Vineyards, we still have plenty of work to do after harvest ends in the Fall to get ready for the Spring and the beginning of the growing season.
Harvest typically ends sometime in October. The exact timing is always weather dependent. Sometimes grapes ripen early, sometimes late. As we pick vineyard blocks, we heavily water the vines. This is the last drink of water that we supply the vines until the following calendar year. We then seed a cover crop between the rows. This cover crop helps reintroduce nitrogen into the soil that the vines depleted throughout the growing season. Additionally the vineyard’s cover crop prevents erosion and water runoff, and also prevents weed growth. Cover crops have different mixes of peas, radish, amaranth, and rye are placed with a seeder in between the rows of grapevines.
The Winter is the ideal time to make sure all our infrastructure (e.g., trellis) is secure and ready for the Spring. With all the equipment that we run in the vineyard throughout the year, it is inevitable that equipment will catch part of our trellis, and cause issues that need to be addressed when we can catch some breathing room. This includes items such as wires across the vine rows, anchors to our end posts, t-posts, and vine stakes. Dead vines are also pulled out during this time making spots for new ones that are arriving in the Spring.
Once January comes around, we are making sure all our equipment is ready to go. Our harvest head on our Pellenc Optimum 2 gets removed and the rough pruning attachment, the Disco, is attached. All the oils are checked out on our tractors and work that needs to be done on them is taken care of ahead of the growing season. Depending on the Winter moisture that we have received, we do start watering late January with our above-ground drip irrigation system. This helps the vine roots start to wake and take in a much needed drink since harvest.
Since we do have 140 acres to cover, we tend to start pruning in February. When pruning, we are looking out for any abnormal vines, insects, and the overall health of the block since harvest. We prune to 2 buds to insure that we are keeping our yields low and in turn raising our quality standards. We have found that if we do not get ahead on canopy management it can get ahead of you very quickly and it is very hard to catch up.
Through these Winter-time practices in the vineyard, we can ensure that we’re set up for the most successful growing season. This then allows us to focus on growing the best quality grapes in the state of Texas, and ultimately make the highest quality of wine possible for our estate-grown winery labels.