A Planted Hillside- Our Vineyard Expansion Experience

In 2016, it became apparent that we needed to expand. The quality of our wines was greatly improving, and we were optimistic of what the future would hold. Our quaint little vineyard has limited acreage on top of the hill, so to expand we would need to terrace the south-facing hillside. 

Heavy machinery was brought in to carve the hillside into 12 large terraces. This required the removal of trees, shrubs, and tons of rocks, some as large as small cars, to create level planting surfaces. Once the terraces were formed, cover crop (a mixture of grasses) was planted to protect newly exposed soil and to solidify the hillside.

Unfortunately (but also fortunately for our water supply), the winter of 2016 brought monstrous storms, delivering over 70 inches of rain to our vineyard! The result: massive erosion issues threatening to wash away recent progress. With some engineering, we were able to devise a drainage system which diverted water from the hilltop around the newly terraced hillside. We also dug a LOT of ditches and spread straw to prevent whole terraces from sliding downhill. Somehow we survived the winter and celebrated by installing 8’ deer fence to keep out unwanted guests.

But we had to make a big decision before we could put vines in the ground- we had to choose what grapes to plant!

Over the last few years, our Zinfandel wines have consistently been a customer favorite. Facing a sell-out the last 3 years in a row, the decision wasn’t very difficult! In 2017, we placed an order for Zinfandel “Uber Vines” from Duarte Nursery. 

Uber vines are not your run-of-the-mill nursery plants. Ubers have typically been grown in a greenhouse for an entire year before being distributed to growers. Since these vines are more mature, they have many benefits over traditional nursery vines. Ubers are much stronger and the chance of losing vulnerable young vines after planting is significantly reduced. And at 36” tall, the vines can immediately be tied to their training wires- no wait required! There are also reduced labor costs over the first year, and the vines reach grape producing age much faster. That means that we can get tasty Zinfandel wine out to our customers a full year earlier! 

The June 2018 planting came with some serious challenges of its own. Since we are on a hillside, the vine rows are not straight and require extra engineering to ensure the trellising can withstand the weight of future fruit. We brought in experts to help determine the best way to assemble the new structures. Planning and construction took some additional time, but eventually we were able to employ a planting crew. After a full week of hard work, all new vines were in the ground and getting some much-needed mid-summer watering. 

As our vines continue to grow over the next few years, we’ll be sure to keep you updated on their progress! With south facing slopes, the ever-present Delta breeze, and the personal touch only a small vineyard can offer, these vines are sure to do well!