Ryan Gerhardt, vineyard manager for Continuum Estate
Its early May on Pritchard Hill and the vines are awakening from their long winter slumber with leaves and green shoots growing.
The seasonal turn from winter to spring has left us drought free with all the reservoirs full after a higher than normal rainfall of 36 inches. Temperatures have been fairly cool but warmer days are returning, and now that the rains have stopped, we are on schedule in the vineyard.
The big news is the development of 20 new acres of vineyard alongside the current 40 acres in production. Last summer we pulled out 13 acres of vines and dug up an additional 7 acres to continue the development of our estate vineyards.
This was not as simple as sticking a pitchfork in the back yard and turning the soil. We had to remove a humongous amount of andesite boulders ranging in size from ½ ton to 30 tons in size!
(See pictures to get a better sense of this process.)
Now that the boulders are gone, we are preparing a variety of rootstocks, assorted clonal selections and selective irrigation practices to support 13 unique vineyard blocks within this 20 acre section . Isolating these vineyard blocks allows us to better understand each one’s unique combination of soil, aspect, water retention, and fertility. As the vineyard blocks mature, each will reveal their own unique flavor and character. Our winemaking team will then carefully select fruit from these different blocks to craft the finest wine possible from this world class vineyard.
In total we will place 47,500 vines in the ground this year of which 2/3 are Cabernet Franc and the rest Petit Verdot. This works out to a fairly tight vineyard spacing of 3 ft x 6 ft; this tighter spacing promotes more competition among the vines, resulting in higher quality fruit. The late spring rains have been a real boon for the new vineyard blocks as the soil moisture is higher than normal, ideal for planting.
In addition to planting new vines, we have grafted 4 acres of existing vines over to 3 acres of Petit Verdot and 1 acre of Cabernet Franc. This fruit will be harvested over the next couple of years, well before our new plantings which we expect to crush in 3-4 years.
Other projects include a study initiated by University of California, Berkeley with various cover crops grown in the vineyard to increase predation of pests. We are also taking advantage of the new ‘real-time’ sap flow technology by installing sensors to track the water needs of our vines.
I along with my crew-Lupe, Salvador, Luis and Juvenal- are hard at work getting the vineyards ready for another great year.
Come up and see us when you can and take a look at this great property!