To all things, there is a season. And in the vineyard, there’s constant meticulous work to ensure each harvest brings us the best that Mother Nature can share with us.
Budbreak: When the vines emerge from winter dormancy, each bud pushes forth a new, tender shoot. All of this effort comes 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 and bacteria-based fungal inhibitors.
Shoot thinning or green pruning: During the dormant prune in winter we will often leave a few 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 vine’s balance.
Shoot positioning: Grape vines can be rather unwieldy if not guided. The fast-growing shoots during the summer are manually tucked back into place in the trellis system to keep them from splaying on the vineyard floor.
Irrigating: Our grapevines do not need copious amounts of water, but they do need some to produce healthy fruit. We carefully parse out the water, considering both conservation and the delicate balance between plant growth and quality fruit production.
Fruit thinning: 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 are left on the vines until harvest.
Predator control: The grapevine has evolved for thousands of years to attract animals to its fruit. McEvoy Ranch's diverse wildlife population all seems to appreciate our grapes’ flavors. 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 and sustainable program.
Harvest: The culmination of our year's efforts. 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 and sugar levels of the grapes for the perfect moment to end the fruit’s growth and begin winemaking.
Cover crop: As in the orchards, the vineyards receive a broadcast mixture of cover crop seeds in October. The favored mix on the Ranch 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 most critical jobs – the pruner considers the growth of the past, the vine's current condition, and the anticipated and desired growth for the upcoming season. All pruned canes are left in the vine rows to be mown in the spring.