Growing Grapes in the Vineyard

Being a “city girl” and not necessarily familiar with all that takes place in the vineyard to grow grapes, I thought I would copy and paste an email from Bookcliff Vineyards about what is happening with a new planting in their vineyard. Remember the saying….”a winemaker can’t make good wine, unless he/she starts with good grapes!!”

Explore and Enjoy!! Paula

Spring 2017 at the Vineyard
Hawkridge – the old

It is about time to report on what is happening in the vineyard. After all the growing season has started, plus we are undertaking a new project of planting an additional four acres of vines at our Hawkridge Vineyard.

In 2015 we purchased the Hawkridge Vineyard after leasing it for three years prior. I included many photos from this vineyard in many seasons, as I feel this vineyard in particular has a very scenic location, tucked away at the East end of the Grand Valley, so that even many people having lived in Palisade for a long time have to ask for directions. Luckily many of you find us in September when we hold our Feast in the Vineyard at this location.
Hawkridge – the new.

The Hawkridge Vineyard consists of two adjacent properties with vacant land begging to be planted into more vineyard. The Hawkridge vineyard is the site where the grapes for the Reserve Malbec are grown and where we grow the Petit Verdot, Tempranillo and Souzao.

Learning from growing grapes in the Grand Valley for over 20 years we decided to plant more Malbec and Syrah. You would think that we have plenty of Malbec as with are also leasing the Heller vineyard that is 100% planted in Malbec. During the disastrous years of 2013 and 2014 where we had 50% damage in the vineyard from spring frost and winter freeze we found that Malbec is holding up well to these occasional freeze and frost conditions. Also, Malbec is a great match with our arid and high altitude climate, as Argentina has shown, where they grow Malbec in the same conditions at the foot of the Andes and produce premier wine.
Syrah has also shown great promise in Colorado, producing exceptional wines similar to the best regions in Washington. Currently we grow Syrah in only one location at our Vinelands vineyard that we share with Creekside Cellar. Though Syrah has fallen out of favor with the consumer we felt that its potential for producing great wines outweighs this downside; in the 2016 Colorado Governor’s Cup Wine Competition two Syrahs were included in the top 12 wines and in 2015 Syrah received even more acclaim with two Syrah wines being selected as the Best in Show winners.
Earlier this year – it was still really cold – we went to Palisade and surveyed the new site, so posts for the trellis system could be installed. With the posts in place, John spent another better part of a week in March installing the sprinkler system for irrigation, extending what was in place at the existing vineyard to the new vineyard. Then he went back in April to plant half of the vineyard with self-rooted vines. The second half will be planted with grafted vines that come as green, potted plants in May. John decided to plant some grafted vines as an insurance against the phylloxera that was discovered late last year in Colorado vineyards. With grafted vines vinefera varieties, such as Syrah or Malbec are grafted to a rootstock that is phylloxera resistant. This is taking a risk as there is no successful track record of growing grafted vines in Colorado.

Chardonnay in April.
We are fortunate that so far the growing season is progressing without major frost incidence. We saw below freezing temperatures twice in April (4/5/17 and 4/10/17) when the vines were already budding out. But, fortunately the cold spell did not cause any damage to the vines. If there is no more cold weather coming, which is not in the forecast at this point, we can look forward to a normal crop yield in 2017. Before long we will be starting our regular spray program of sulfur against powdery mildew, and we will need to start on our irrigation schedule.
Planting grass seed between the rows in our newly planted vineyard is also on the program. The goal is for the grass to crowd out the weeds, retain the moisture in the soil and add some organic matter, which is in short supply in the arid Colorado climate.

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