View Blog Archive The Sixteen 600 Blog By Sam Coturri > Vineyard Rehab Part 1 AKA Muchas Piedras

Category - Moon Mountain District, Farming, Vineyard, Planting
Posted - 06/17/2014 07:56pm
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Vineyard Rehab Part 1 AKA Muchas Piedras
When I posted the first Instagram picture of this vineyard reclamation project my friend Morgan Twain Peterson of Bedrock Wine Co. aptly commented the "vineyard has looked, ahem, like it's not keeping up with the neighborhood." Of course, the neighborhood Morgan was referring to is a little slice of the Moon Mountain District above Sonoma Valley. The vineyard neighbors the Sixteen 600 Estate to the Northwest and the Phil Coturri-grown Liquid Sky Vineyard to the South.

Though technincally organic, the poorly planned and neglected block of Zinfandel had never been in commercial production and frankly, looked kinda sad. In fact, when I would bring groups up to Sixteen 600 and Liquid Sky for tours I would point to the vineyard as the result of organic by benign neglect. No cover crops were ever grown, the soil was never cultivated and the irrigation system was failing. So while there were no chemical fertilizers or pesticides applied, the vineyard struggled to grow let alone produce grapes.
However, early this year the property was sold and the new owner wanted a productive vineyard and we saw an opportunity to "grow" the Sixteen 600 Estate vineyard.

In early March arranged with the new owner to redevelop and farm the vineyard. The following is the first of an ongoing series documenting this redevelopment. In light of what Phil always says, you plant vineyards for your children and olive trees for your grandchildren, the first wine from this vineyard probably won't be available until 2020, 6 years after this project began.

The first task was to take out the old vineyard and the first step was to cut the vines off the trellis system and pull them out. The trellis system was then disassembled and sent to the metal recyclers. Here, Phil describes this process to Juan Oliveros who manages the Norrbom Road properties for Enterprise Vineyards.

Once the trellis and vines were removed, we were really able to see the site in all its raw, rocky glory. The vineyard has amazing exposure from due East to West Northwest, expansive views of the Sonoma Valley, the San Pablo Bay and Mount Tamalpais.

With the old vines and infrastructure removed, we reshaped the terraces to best accommodate for exposure, slope, soil (rock) composition and to maximize the amount of vines we could fit into the small vineyard. This reshaping also broke up the soil compacted by years of neglect. In most cases, this tractor time would make planting easier but nothing was going to make digging holes up here "easier."

With the terraces reshaped and the topsoil broken up, we could finally see just how rocky this vineyard is, and this is when Phil started to get really excited about it.

The new vineyard was laid-out with five feet between each vine and a minimum of eight feet between the rows depending on the terrace. Then came the "fun" part, digging 1,230 or so holes. This crew gathered close to the guy with the best radio so they could listen to Mexico play Brazil in the World Cup over the constant din of shovels and metal bars hitting rock.

In every vineyard Phil develops a shovelful of compost is added to the hole before the rootstock is planted. On a site where the soil has been as neglected as this vineyard, the scoop of compost will go a long way toward building up organic matter and helping ensure the survival of the vine.

With the holes dug, the compost added and the irrigation system working, it was time to plant the vines. We chose a rootstock called Paulsen 1103 because it is drought tolerant and good in rocky soils. Listen closely and you'll hear Juan say "Muchas piedras" (many rocks) stating the obvious.

In the next week or two, the first little green leaves will start appearing, marking the beginning of a new life for this rocky little slice of paradise. Stay tuned for more developments in Vineyard Rehab.

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