Part III A Plantin’ We Will Go
Part IV The First Year
Part II: Making Your Own Terroir for Fun and Non-Profit
Fast forward about 15 years and we find our protagonist actually working in the wine business – although not in quite the way he’d originally thought about. After deciding to stay in the finance and operation side of business, but trading transportation for fine wine as the underlying franchise, the empty-nest syndrome kicked in, and we decided to move to the country. Finding a fixer-upper in rural Sonoma County on 2/3rds of an acre, we settled in to become grape growers for our own hobby. But wait! There is no vineyard – only about 35 evergreen trees and shrubs, courtesy of the previous owner who really liked the FREE TREES the county was giving away back in the 70’s…
BTW – when buying an old house, figure out what you think you need to do to fix it up, then quadruple it. Then, when you’ve made the place somewhat livable, you can get your vineyard going. So, after a new roof, new well casing, new septic drain field, new kitchen, new everything in the house, new pool equipment, new fences, new electrical service, etc., it was time to start prepping the land.
Early on a hot October weekend, Paul Bunyan and his brother and their fraus attacked the forest in what we laughingly call “the south 40.” The sole survivor was a 50 year old Mission Fig tree dead center in the south 40. Still very productive, we thought it set a nice mood when gazing out towards the mountains of Annadel State Park. Then, a few months later, Stumpy the Stump Grinder ( I’m not kidding – that’s what he called himself – don’t ask) shows up and removes the last remnants of the carnage. Ready to plant you say? Not quite yet…
Part III: A Plantin’ We Will Go
Part IV: The First Year
We just got the protective sleeves on the baby vines a day before the first hard frost nothing like cutting it close! The danger in the first year is mostly due to these being bud grafts onto a phyloxera resistant root stock. Nearly all California grapes come from grafted stock, partly because we don't have severe enough winters to warrant growing vines on their native rootstock. In colder climates, like Washington, Oregon and New York, you will see mostly planted varietal rootstock.
We came through a rather mild but very wet winter and early spring. We only lost six vines - that's a good start. Then, the invaders arrived. Gophers (bad) and moles (not so bad). Towards the middle of summer I started feeling like Carl the groundskeeper in "Caddyshack." Poisoning, trapping, and gassing became my second business. While I didn't lose any vines to them, they managed to take a three foot lime tree completely down into the ground, with no evidence it ever existed except for the forlorn planting stake and the identification tag, left sitting near the hole in the middle of the tree ring. Nice $40 dinner for the little buggers. Sadder but wiser, I trudged back to the nursery, found a gopher wire basket and another tree, dug a hole and put the basket in, then planted the tree inside of it. Now, I am the proud owner of a nice little dwarf citrus that cost three times what it should have. I wonder do I need to hire dwarves to harvest it for me?
--Craig House, CFO/COO