Did you know the quality of Bella Grace wines starts in the vineyard? Most winemakers will tell you that quality wine can be made from quality grapes, but quality wine cannot be made from poor quality grapes. For us, making great wine starts every spring in the vineyard.
This year, the long and wet winter, delayed pruning until early April, and produced a later bud break than normal. With the extra rain, we allowed the winter cover crop to grow longer and capture some of the extra moisture.
Cultivating our winter cover crops has a dramatic influence on the health of our vines. Let me explain.
Every November, we plant an organic cover crop composed of Cayuse Oats, Bell Beans, Magnum Peas and Common Vetch. We allow the cover crop to grow through the winter months until it matures and begins to flower in early May (picture 1). The legumes from the cover crop are an excellent source of organic matter and provide additional nitrogen in a usable form to the vines.
Once the cover crop is shredded into smaller pieces, we want to cultivate it into the soil immediately to achieve all the benefits of the legumes’ organic nitrogen in the vineyard soil. A special machine called a “spader” is used to turn the soil. Spading, as an alternative tillage system, separates soil deeply at different levels, yet does not compromise topsoil with sub-soils. It rapidly incorporates the organic matter from the cover crop, adds oxygen, promotes water retention, discourages erosion and eliminates compaction. It promotes vine root development by creating healthy soil structure.
This process is expensive and requires much more effort than conventional vineyard practices. However, after many years of employing these best practices, we are convinced that our vines are healthier and produce higher quality fruit. If you visit us this August, you can see the results in the vineyard—you will notice the lush green canopies of our vines compared to other vineyards. For us, the investment in the health of our vineyard shows greatly in a glass of Bella Grace wine. Enjoy the difference!