Our agricultural endeavors seem to be veering along two separate and distinct paths. With two radically different outcomes. Perhaps the difference is that one is being run along the lines of a corporation i.e. good and knowledgeable professionals are brought in when needed. The other farm is run by a rank amateur desperately trying to learn “on the job”. Who would that incompetent be? [Guiltily raises hand.]
First let’s talk about the successes. Because if we start with the failures, I won’t be able to finish the post. Did I say success? How about an excess of success? That’s what’s happening at Two Terrier Vineyards.
In the past few years, as the vines were planted and maturing toward first harvest, our vineyard management company has been seeding the land between the rows with nitrogen-fixing cover crops like red clover. Periodically they hauled in mulch and spread it between the rows. We did our part dutifully returning the pressings and cuttings as further mulch to the vineyard.
As this season has gone on, I noticed our vineyards becoming decidedly seedy. Grass was growing wild as high as the vines and no cover crops had been added for over a year. I brought this up with the vineyard manager who comes here on an ad hoc basis. Let me just digress on this vineyard manager business. I’m not talking a snooty Frenchman who wears a beret and waffles on endlessly about “thee terroir“. I’m talking a great guy named Clarence who has some tractors and vineyard equipment. In other words, this guy is a farmer. And a good one. In case you ever forget, or I do, let me remind both of us: 99% of this winemaking game is farming.
So Clarence, or rather his equally knowledgeable partner Linda, told us the surprising news. Our grapes are doing entirely too well. That’s why they’re letting the grass go wild. They’ve got to suck some nutrients OUT of the soil. And furthermore, they’re shutting off the water. We knew grapes needed to suffer to produce good wine grapes (instead of big fat watery table grapes which will take all the pampering you can give them). But our grapes are heading into their own Abu Graib. Call it waterLESSboarding. Yeah, what doesn’t kill them will make them stronger. In the end, when I pour you a glass of Vintage 2009 Estate Grown Two Terrier Cabernet, you’ll thank me for taking a Dick Cheney stand on this.
The scenario is completely different in the little kitchen garden down the hill. Let’s call it Stumblebum Farm. I’ve done everything for those crops. I irrigated. I cleared out aphids. I brought in worms and ladybugs. I’ve mulched and driven to Santa Cruz twice for organic compost tea. I tell ya, I’ve worked my fingers to the bone for those vegetable kids. No respect.
Maybe it’s time for a little Tough Love in the vegetable patch.