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Growing Pains, Part 2: Punt or Run

Posted: May 3, 2007 10:46am ET

I believe we have a plan. I'll get into that in a moment. Chances are this whole situation with the frost-killed vines is partially our fault. So first, a little back-story might help you at this point.

We experienced an early freeze in November '05. Pretty much wiped out all of our new vines. That had us thinking we should attempt to get the vines into dormancy earlier. We stopped watering the new plants for a short period at the beginning of November '06 for this very purpose. The thought was that if we can get them to sleep early, we avoid a similar tragedy.

Apparently that was the wrong thing to do. Getting them to bed early, yes. But depriving them of water, no. It's the desert, Maynard. Duh.

Merkin East still has decent growth in the older vines, as well as in the vines just slightly up from the "deceased boomerangs." That indicates that it's possible to make this vineyard work if we can get the vines past the first couple years. Merkin South, however, is pretty much a wash. So here's our new plan:

We're going to treat Merkin South as a test site. We'll be planting the same varietal on the same rootstock across the whole vineyard, but each row will be treated a bit differently. We have several approaches on paper that should work—everything from berming to mulching to over/under-watering to grow-tubing to foot massaging. We have about 10 of these pure experiments, which we will alternate across the vineyard—one through 10, then start over on one until we run out of rows. It may take us a few years to get it right, but in the end we will know for sure what works and what doesn't.

These are the activities of a true pioneer. Too bad it's not free. If it were, it wouldn't sting quite as much.

On Merkin East, we're just going to go with our best guess and hope we're right. We've been receiving some excellent advice, and we're listening carefully.

Merkin West is another story altogether. The vineyard is kickin' booty. We had even growth across the whole vineyard, everything pushed buds around the same time, and there was almost zero winter kill. We should have some Cabernet Sauvignon off these vines this year, maybe 1.5 tons if we're lucky.

Az Stronghold Vineyard (formerly Dos Cabezas) is also well on its way. All the hard work Fabian, Chris, Craig and their crew did over the last several months has clearly paid off. It's going to be a good year filled with some interesting new experiences. For photos, check out the journal section of my site, www.caduceus.org.

Crystal Vessels
Jacksonville, FL —  May 3, 2007 7:28pm ET
Mr. Keenan - I guess I will just have to wait until September to get my hands on any of your wine, but I am exceptionally excited to do so. Merkin South - same rootstock and varietal with different treatments - that's interesting...cool. Your tour is getting ready to have you a bit further away from your vines...When you are in Jacksonville, FL, we would love to have you stop by our restaurant. crushbistro.net We would be happy to stay open for you after the show...Crystal
Troy Peterson
Burbank, CA —  May 4, 2007 11:11am ET
Sorry about all the bad news. School of hard frost I guess. Keep up the pioneering spirit. It will pay off.
John W Graham Iii
Richmond VA —  May 4, 2007 6:36pm ET
"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the grey twilight that knows not victory nor defeat." - Theodore RooseveltKeep at it!
Adam C Lapierre
NY —  May 6, 2007 8:38am ET
Wow. The same guy who gave us Prison Sex, Stinkfist and Hooker with a &*%$%....would've never thought the words "kickin' booty" were in your vocabulary MJK. Just teasing a bit. Good luck with the replanting.
Badri Jureidini
Minneapolis, MN —  May 6, 2007 4:51pm ET
Sorry about the vines. Sorry about stupid fans that ruin it for the rest of us to...the water bottle at the Pearl was a well put gesture (those/us children). Going to Cedar Bluffs; wonder what the wine selection is like there. Atlantic City will be fun with my wife with and possibly a couple of friends.I'm planning to visit Sedona and the vineyard. Whats the best time?Want to share a Grange '98 in Atlantic City; my treat. I'll even let you drink it alone and leave or just give it to Blaire. We'll be fourth row section F2; I'll see if I can bring it with.Don't get board with us, we're just Bah Bah; you know.
Kirk R Grant
Ellsworth, ME —  May 19, 2007 10:46am ET
Maynard, I noticed that the 2005's don't have the case production listed. I was wondering how many of each bottling was produced? Did production go up in 2005 due to the success of the 2004's selling out so fast? Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.

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