Sounds kind of depressing, doesn't it ? In the past I've used the end of the year to reflect, but looking at the last few blog entries it appears that I have been making comments in this regard throughout most of the season as events have unfolded and completely altered my "big plans" for 2010.
Things just didn't go as smooth as I had wanted. They started off on the wrong footing with a delay in the new field opening due to a late soy harvest in 2009. And then my key guy had decided for him that 3 squares a day and a roof over his head, complements of the Virginia Commonwealth, was going to dominate his year. It was one of the driest and hottest years on record, and with new plants and a non-existent irrigation system, it proved that crop losses in the vineyard matched those in other crops.....we lost 50% of our new vines, mostly Cabernet Sauvignon. Diane, ever the optimist when it comes to things of a growing nature, thinks that some will show signs of life if we just continue to water them through October. I'm not too sure.
General pruning and weed control took a back seat to getting the new block up and growing and watered, which pretty much worked its way well into September before this task could be considered done. Way too long for an expansion.
I'm looking ahead to next year, and the year after which as they say will be here sooner than you think. As for the grapevines in Block 1 and Block 2, there is always the pruning that is requiring. This can be done anytime once they become dormant up until they start to have bud break. A mild winter will allow this to be done piecemeal during the next 4 or so months. And then there are the replacement vines to be put in Block 2....almost 1000 of them. Gulp ! But time wise this won't take very long since they are already marked with the irrigation system working to give them a good start.
As for weeding and fertilizing, we have all the sprayers now converted to handle vines already up to the top wire, as well as having directional nozzles to aim at the one year old plants still close to the ground. This past year we added a new piece of equipment that will spray herbicides in the most efficient and directed manner available. We tried it this past year and it was a great success, though we weren't as diligent as we should have been in maintaining a spray schedule.
Our big purchase in 2011 will be an in-and-out tiller. It is just another cool piece of equipment that attachs to a 3-point capable tractor and tills weeds under the wires, toggling out and in around the grapes for absolute ground coverage. It is hypnotising to watch this thing work. When we get the website up we'll have a youtube of it in action. I calculated that it would take nearly 2 weeks to till the two blocks using a conventional tiller so it didn't take much in the way of justification to decide to get one of these fast running Italian machines for next year.
And now I am putting together the plans for the winery. First crush will be Fall of 2012 and we need a winery to do all this in. That means the chrome-plated shovel must be ready to break earth in that same Spring.....just 16 months away. Diane and I have talked about styles and layouts, and right now we are looking at a nice post and beam barn layout. It would fit well with the local architecture and allow us the flexibility to alter the inside to meet our needs. Initially the winery, tasting room, and retail outlet need to be considered, but ultimately a small bakery, coffee shop, and restaurant are to be added shortly afterwards. There is alot to consider and soon we will need the help of an architect to fine tune it, but at least "we think" we know what we want.
Of course, all of this must in some way coincide with my selling my business and home in Massachusetts, both tough nuts to crack in a downer economy, but things always seem to work out with perseverence and focus.
One final note. The birds got to the Norton grapes in a very timely manner. They know the BRIX reading as well as any refractometer does. When I returned to pick them, all I saw was grape bunch skeletons. It kinda capped the year I guess, but on the bright side this was not a major harvest year, and it forewarned us of a problem that needs to be addressed before next Fall.