Budbreak: When the vines emerge from winter dormancy, each bud pushes forth a new, tender shoot. All of this effort must come from reserves stored in the plant from the previous season until there are enough new leaves to photosynthesize and begin assimilating carbohydrates for the current growth flush. This event marks the beginning of our active growing season.
Powdery mildew control: The spring's young green shoots are attractive to many organisms, including a fungus called powdery mildew, Uncinula necator. The organic control program requires numerous sprays throughout the spring and early summer to keep this fungus at bay; we use a mix of sulfur, bacteria-based fungal inhibitors and whey.
Shoot thinning or green pruning: During the dormant prune in winter we will often leave some extra buds on the canes as insurance against unforeseen inclement spring weather. When we are sure that there are sufficient new shoots, we pass through the vineyards and thin out the extra ones, leaving the correct amount to properly maintain the balance of the vine.
Shoot positioning: Grape vines can be rather unwieldy if not guided. The fast-growing shoots during the summer have to be tucked back into place in the trellis system to keep them from splaying all over the vineyard floor.
Irrigating: These grapevines do not need copious amounts of water, but they do need some to produce fruit. We carefully parse out the water, considering both conservation and the delicate balance between plant growth and quality fruit production.
Fruit thinning: The vine is eager to produce more fruit than is necessary for our wine program. To concentrate the flavors, ensure a timely ripening and not exhaust the vines, we drop a significant amount of fruit during the summer. The remaining bunches will be left on the vines until harvest.
Predator control: The grape vine has evolved for many thousands of years to attract animals to its fruit. McEvoy Ranch's diverse wildlife population all seem to appreciate the flavors of the grape. The many intricate layers of predator control (keeping the fruit safe from birds, yellow jackets, raccoons, ants, deer, wild pigs and any other hungry visitors) all fit within the ranch's organic program.
Harvest: The culmination of our year's work. The weather can affect the stage of ripening very quickly at this time of year. We spend many hours in the vineyards monitoring the ripening of the grapes for the perfect moment to end the fruit growth and begin the winemaking.
Cover crop: As in the orchards, the vineyards receive a broadcast mixture of cover crop seeds in October. The favored mix includes alyssum, clover and vetch. The alyssum has been a successful component as it attracts many beneficial insects, mats nicely on the vineyard floor and blooms late into the summer.
Pruning: The dormant prune sets the vine's structure for the future year's growth. Pruning is one of the season's more enjoyable jobs; the pruner considers the growth of the past, the vine's current condition and anticipated and desired growth for the upcoming season. All pruned canes are left in the vine rows to be mown in the spring.