Spring means a lot to us as farmers but one very exciting thing for us at this time of year is to plant. As you may or may not know, we don't plant every year like most crops. Grapevines are perennial/deciduous and once planted can give us fruit once a year for years. The average age of most commercially farmed vineyards is about 30 years with some vineyards producing high quality grapes for over 100 years.
That said, you can see how important it is to get it "right" the first time.
Getting it right doesn't mean just planting the right vines in the right spot. Planting a good vineyard does start with proper site selection as well as matching the vines and rootstock to the soil and overall "terrior" of the site but making sure everything else is in place first is imperative to a vineyards longterm success. I'll save a definition of terrior for another time so for now let's start with what's under the vines.
In most areas, even in higher rainfall areas, irrigation is key to the life and quality of planting. Having enough water for the young vines to survive the first year is why even in those "wet" areas some type of irrigation is installed. For us, watering is very critical and believe it or not, quite complicated. Starting with the right system underground is more than burying some pipe. A good system is well thought out and designed with length of runs as well as water pressures maintained over the entire vineyard. Yes, there is math!
Once the layout is designed (each plastic knife pictured represents a vine) the trenches are dug and the pipes are installed. We have learned the hard way; we check the irrigation before we bury the pipes! The next step is to install the pressure regulators, end posts, pencil rods, drip tubing, support posts, trellis wire and plant the vines along with the protective grow tubes. Among other things!
Now for the fun part, we watch closely and wait. For years. And years. It takes at least three before we get any grapes from the vines and then, in this case with Sangiovese, another two to three before we bottle and sell the wine made. So with a little luck, lots of love and some hard work, just think, five years from this writing we will be sitting on the patio overlooking this new section of Sangiovese vines and sipping what it has given us in love returned.