Q: What do you call a boomerang that doesn't come back?
A: A stick.
And that's exactly what I have planted on the majority of my lower vineyards. Winter kill and late frost have kicked my vines right in the huevos. This is the second year in a row we've had issues in these vineyards. We went into this knowing that there would be growing pains, so it's no surprise. It's just disappointing.
There are so many variables to consider. Both of the vineyards in question are just in and a little above the flood plain along Oak Creek. No doubt we get some chilly air settling. Most of the soil along the lower edge, closest to the creek, is very sandy with not much organic material. Then there is the question of variety and rootstock.
Today is our big powwow to discuss a no-holds-barred approach to sorting this out. It's time to do controlled experiments that involve specific variations before I go dumping more cash into this bottomless well. Berm a couple rows, don't berm a couple. We'll plant a few rows on their own rootstock, and a few rows on 110R or another rootstock. Experiment with vines that push later than others, as well as with alternating sleeves/grow tubes to protect the young vines—one with, the next one without and so on. Might even plant some hearty rootstock, get it growing up above the freeze-zone, then graft. Lots to consider.
One thing that may be a huge factor is the organic material present in the soil. The elevation of Eric's vineyard is almost the same as mine. He's had similar temperatures as well. But his lot has more organic material/loam and has a bit more grade than my lower lots. In addition, the vines that are one year older are doing fine. Other than a slight bit of frost, nothing tragic. It may be just a matter of getting past that first volatile year. So the good news is we may not be far off from a solution. And as we all know, a little stress can lead to a good grape. It's just a matter of discovering that point of balance.
Part 2 of this blog will be more about boomerangs and less about sticks. Stay tuned.