With winter upon us, we welcome the winter rains and activities in our vineyards take a different turn. The grapes are crushed and the juice is being transformed into wine, while the vines take a well-deserved rest, storing energy in anticipation of reawakening in the spring.
Cover Crops and Erosion Mitigation
“Winterization” is going on in the nearly 550 acres of vines at our Dollarhide and Rutherford Estate Vineyards during these cooler months. Preparing the soil for the following year’s growing season is a priority this time of year, according to our Senior Vineyard Manager, Rafael Jimenez. A mixture of oats and legumes have been planted as cover crops, helping to greatly increase the organic matter needed to enrich the soil for next year’s crop. Several beneficial grasses were added to aid with erosion control, and straw “waddles” have been strategically positioned in our hillside vineyards to funnel rainwater.
“When there is a lot of rain, the waddles guide the water where we want it to go instead of washing away the precious soil,” explains Rafael, who has more than 30 years of experience maintaining vineyards year-round in California. “On top of all that, we monitor the vineyards constantly during the winter months, walking through the fields just to ensure there is no erosion.”
Yearly Maintenance and Preparation
Other vineyard tasks this season include repairing posts and trellis wires, fixing tractors and other mechanical equipment, and placing a two-inch-thick cover of rice straw in some of the vineyard rows, which helps prevent erosion and insulate the soil.
With ample rains forecasted this winter, we are optimistic that the seven lakes at the Dollarhide Estate Vineyard will fill to capacity. This not only helps us continue our participation in the Napa Green sustainability initiative of water-smart growing and production practices, but the wildlife at Dollarhide–– the ducks, birds, coyotes and even mountain lions––also appreciate the abundance of fresh, clean water.