It’s hard to believe that just two years ago, I was in France pouring our Malbec at the International Malbec Days while Maggie was home planting the new vineyards at Rucksack. We had removed the old, cut-over Christmas tree farm, prepared the land (disked and cross-disked), and proceeded to plant just over 4 acres of Cabernet Franc and an acre of Chenin Blanc. OK, yes, my job was easy as I was eating and drinking in France while Maggie was actually sweating in the fields and repairing broken equipment. But let’s not digress…
So a snapshot today of the same piece of land would show something entirely different.
- An irrigation system that not only waters the entire vineyard, but is immediately expandable to irrigate the 6 fallow acres yet to be planted
- A vertical-shoot positioned (VSP) trellising system with one fruiting wire and six-positioning wires
- A maintained natural cover crop (as we see what we have), mowed down to a manageable level
- Cabernet Franc vines that are reaching for the heavens if not already out on the fruiting wire
- Four rows of Chenin Blanc ready to produce some grapes this year
- Most of the block of Chenin Blanc was grafted this year, expecting a crop next year
- And two rows of our old clone of Thompson Seedless from Madroña planted for pure enjoyment
So the big question is (that most people ask), “Do we expect to get any grapes this year?”
The answer is, “Yes!”
Here are some details. When we originally planted, we put in dormant plants. This means that they had been grown in the nursery the previous year and gone dormant over the winter before being delivered to us. Essentially, this gives us a year’s head start towards getting a crop.
Last year (which would be the “third” leaf of the vine) was the major year for preparing vines to be trained for the trellising system. In addition, we dropped all crop on the ground so that the energy would be fed into the vine for growth.
This year, many of the vines have two canes trained out on to the fruiting wire in anticipation of carrying a crop. Some of the vines are in varying degrees of getting to this level (with replants, etc.), but the majority will have some grapes this year.
How much? That’s the million-dollar question. Generally the rule of thumb is that you don’t want to stress the young vine too much by carrying too heavy of a load. The analogy might be asking a young child to carry a very heavy backpack. In the end, it could damage the health of the child (or vine) down the line.
So at least half if not more of the crop has been dropped in recognition that these vines are young (fourth leaf). On the Cab Franc, though, we might end up getting 6 tons of grapes (about 1.5 tons/acre). The Chenin Blanc, however, with the majority just having been grafted will only yield about 500 pounds.
But ironically, getting some grapes is only half of wanting the vineyard to start producing. The other aspect is that all the improvements (trellising system, irrigation system, end posts, etc.) can’t be depreciated on taxes until the farm start producing. (It’s the little things that make staying business possible.)
Three years ago it seemed as if this day of getting a crop was so far away that we couldn’t even think about it. But that day is almost hear. And we’re excited!