It’s that time of year where both new and already developed vineyards dive into the challenge of planting. This year was obviously the big year for us, in that it was our first ever experience of planting a vineyard. Like anything, a lot of hard work is needed before it can be a success, planting a vineyard is no different. I was shocked at the amount of work that we had to put into the fields, it’s not as simple as saying, ok, we’ve got decent soil, we can plant our vines and they’ll grow no problem.
To start with the fields had to be ploughed and harrowed back in October last year so that we could plant a cover crop to keep nutrients in the soil over the winter period. This crop was then cut and mulched back into the soil, specifically to raise the nitrogen levels. A second cover crop was then planted to enhance the nutrient levels even further. We then entered the build-up to the planting itself. The fields had to be flail mown before being ploughed and power harrowed once more to create the planting bed.
So we were a week away from planting, the vine guards, stakes and trellis materials had all been delivered and the vines were on there way and then we were hit with a little something, if you remember called the ‘beast from the east’ the remains of the storm delayed our planting 3 times, as the soil has to be in perfect condition to plant… not a pigs dream of thick, wet mud!
It was last weekend that we were blessed with a sudden heatwave that dried out our soil but leaving enough moisture to make it the ideal conditions for planting. I don’t think we could have asked for a better couple of days if we tried. So at 8:30 am last Saturday, our vineyard consultant arrived with a team of 3 Chileans and a big old tractor equipped with a mechanical planting machine. The process is actually pretty cool and a lot more technical than I expected, the whole vineyard is essentially mapped out into rows via GPS so when planting the tractor knows exactly where to go to keep the spacing between the rows exactly the same, so you end up with these immaculately neat rows. What I find really cool is that whatever direction you look you see a row, all the vines are aligned no matter how you look at them. It’s one of the reasons I think vineyards look so appealing, something within us is drawn to precision and accuracy.
The first day was very full on and we worked well into the evening, finishing at around 9 pm. By around midday on the second day. The planting team had finished, leaving us to stake the vines and put on the vine guards and also plant any vines that had been missed by the planting machine. Now, this may sound like an easy job and you would be forgiven for thinking so because that’s exactly what I thought but boy was I proved wrong. We have planted close to 15,000 vines, consisting of Bacchus, Pinot Noir, Solaris, Pinotin, Reichensteiner and Chardonnay. Now just imagine the scale of the job at hand when I tell you that for the most part, it was myself, Mum and my sister Sienna doing all of that work. We certainly lived up to our ‘Motley Crew’ status and confirmed that we are definitely an unorthodox vineyard. Nonetheless, we had a lot of fun doing it. That was until we got to around day 4, that’s when the monotony of the task really started to kick in. I also really struggled with back pain towards the end of it as I had been given the task of lugging all of the heavy steel rods around. I can tell you that by the end of the job my back was absolutely knackered and still is today! It took us a full week to finish staking and guarding the vines. In the words of Jay from the Inbetweeners “Vineyard planting… completed It mate”. The job was certainly made better by the rewards waiting at the end of each day, champagne on the deck, watching the sun go down was certainly not a bad way to end each day and was exactly the medicine needed recover after a long days work.
Whilst writing this, I’m sitting out on the deck gazing at the rows of vines as the sun goes down over the big tree we have overlooking the Pinot Noir plantation and I can’t help but feel a sense of pride for what we have accomplished and it’s hard not to revel in the beauty cast by the suns shadow, sprouting new life into our fields. A legacy has been born. It’s extremely satisfying to finally see all that we have worked for start to take shape, the vision of a place for everyone to love and enjoy, somewhere different, ‘the place to be’ is starting to become a reality and it’s extremely exciting. I cannot wait to see what the next chapter holds.
Until next time,