Vineyard Planting History
Early Summer 2011
We selected the site for the first plantings near the top of our hill--in the place that I imagined would be great for planting nearly 20 years earlier. The site had previously been cleared in the 80's, and had wheat and oats/clover planted in alternating years. The soil was the perfect marine sedementary soil prized for Pinot noir production.
We ripped the 10 acre planting site in the fall of 2010 to break up the clay pan to allow easier root penetration. The trellising poles and wires were installed later that winter. In the spring of 2011, the drip irrigation system was installed. We planted 7 by 5; 7 foot row spacing with 5 foot vine placement. A vertical shoot positioning (VSP) trellising system was installed, which would ultimately allow us to have 2 canes per vine. Each cane produces shoots that will provide that seasons grapes.
While the physical setup of the vineyard was being carried out, the grapes were being grown at the Advanced Vineyard Services nursery in Mcminnville, under the care of Jim Kreutzbender. In the early winter of 2011, Scion cuttings of Pinot noir were grafted to different American rootstocks to prevent phylloxera (microscopic sap sucking insects that destroy the roots of European grapes and slowly kill them). We planted 3 acres of the French Dijon 777 clone, 3 acres of 115, and 4 acres of the Pommard clone of Pinot noir.
The winter and spring of 2011 were unusually cold, making it difficult to get the vines out of the greenhouses to harden off in the open before planting. The temperature finally rose enough for the move outside. Right as summer was getting going at the end of June, the vines were ready and we planted. Without irrigation, we would have had to wait until the fall to plant, as the heat and dryness of summer would have destroyed the newly planted grapevines.
In 2012, we had our “second leaf”. The vines were cut back to 2 buds during the winter. That summer, the emphasis was on nourishing and encouraging our vines to develop a nice straight trunk and plentiful root system.
In the winter of 2013, the vines were pruned back to 1 cane. The shoots from this one cane provided our “third leaf”. Our first grapes were harvested on September 18. Elk Cove Vineyards, with Adam Campbell as wine maker, and Tendril Cellars, with Tony Rynders as wine maker, took most of the grapes. Our vineyard manager, Travis Cook, and the Evan Bellingar, the general manager for Results Partners of OVS, both also took a smaller amount as well.
With the success of the first planting, and carrying on with the production of very nice grapes through the fourth leaf, we decided that our site had all the characteristics to provide premium quality grapes--physical location in the northwest corner of the Yamhill Carlton AVA of the northern Willamette Valley (a dry area close to the coast range rain shadow), marine sediment soils for the grapes (especially pinot noir and her related sisters, chardonnay and pinot gris), good slope exposure to the south-southwest, good elevation at the 500 foot range, and room to grow! We also had all the equipment necessary to manage more acreage already, and Robert was cutting back more in his reproductive practice and had more time for mowing, disking, cultivating, etc.
So in early 2014 we took the big next step and planned for 20 more acres to give us a total of approximately 30 acres. The planting occurred in 2 phases: a 10 acre fall planting in 2014 after the clover crop had been harvested, and a 10 acre planting in the spring of 2015. Pole installation, irrigation wiring, and trellis construction happened in the winter of 2015 for the whole 20 acres. The planting would be our normal 5 x 7 foot spacing.
We decided to continue with the Pommard and 777 clones with the addition of one other pinot noir clone, Mt Eden--but chose to change up the root stock to potentially vary maturation times. We planted 3 acres of Pommard and 1 acre of Mt. Eden on 3309 root stock (vs 101-14 in the previous planting), 2 acres of 777 on Riperia Gloire (3309 earlier), 2 acres of chardonnay (one acre each of 76 and 95), and 2 acres of pinot gris 146. The vines were grafted in the winter of 2014, and planted in the fall. The area of the planting was directly east of the first planting and was previously planted in clover. The soil was ripped only to 1.5 feet this time to not disrupt the underlying terroir, but to allow enough for the vines to get established. We felt comfortable doing this, especially with the placement of soil moisture sensors and transmitters in the different areas (a map of weather sensors and live data may be viewed on the weather page).
The final 10 acres were planted directly south of the original plantings, following the ridge line of the hill. Three more acres of Pommard and 4 acres of 777 on 101-14, and 3 acres of a new clone for us, PN 667 on 3309, were grafted in the winter of 2015 and planted in the spring. Since we felt really comfortable with the results of our first planting, the Pommard and 777 scion cuttings were taken from our initial plantings in 2011!
All of the vine scion and root stock selections, and their locations in the vineyard, can be found on the vineyard profile page.