April vineyard update: spring under the big C

Remarkable weeks lie behind us. Seeing all the wonderful restaurants, bars, shops and freelancers we’re connected to suffer from the Corona shutdown has been breaking our hearts. Where will this all end?

Many places offer pick-up or delivery options these days and we’re thankful that many of you make use of this. And not surprisingly online is booming. Nonetheless there seems to be significantly less wine being drunk and the pallets we usually prepare these days are smaller and there are fewer.

We had a big planting party planned for the month of April with a wonderful group of people lined up to help. And of course it had to be cancelled. Depressing. But. Life goes on. Nature is waking up. Plants are growing. Baby vines were delivered. There is no way to hide in a corner and drown in grief. It’s spring and everything is growing. Like here in our favorite wild garlic wood.

So – what’s up in the vineyards these days? We had a decent bud break. No frost (so far), no exceptional caterpillar or deer damage. With less than 20 liters of rain in April it’s pretty dry out there. Just before a few rain drops came down the last days we sowed a wide mix of herbs and flowers in our freshly planted vineyard plus the tilling strips in the Feldermaus vineyard.

Which I did indeed till for the very first time. The green had become a little overwhelming (and the yields a little underwhelming) and I consider a sweep cultivator (in this case with two blades) a relatively gentle way to shift the balance a little more back towards the vines. And of course a decent load of guano ended up in that vineyard again.

With all the canes being tied and the trellising fixed and prepared we could move on to our plan B for planting our new vineyard. A good hectare, directly connected to the vineyards we already farm in the valley of the Eherieder Berg. The soil was well prepared and in a surprisingly good condition, not too dry not too wet. So one Saturday morning that monster of a planting machine arrived. The baby vines had been soaking in compost tea the night before (we didn’t have something better at that time) and were impatiently waiting to get in the soil. It all worked out very smoothly but it’s way less satisfying than doing it by hand. I was lacking a connection to this new vineyard.

To water the baby vines a friend brought us many tanks of water from a well close by and we used a truckload of hoses to get it to the plants. Some plants were missing, some were on the wrong spot, all nice little jobs to finally start connecting with that piece of land.

And definitively a highlight: we planted 35 apple trees right into that vineyard. To break up the monoculture, encourage mycorrhiza, increase biodiversity – and have some apples to eat and make cider out of. It looks gorgeous already.

And what did we plant in the end? About half of the land is planted with a mix of six different hybrids so it’s supposed to become a field blend. The other half is now home to an apparently extinct member of the Pinot family. It was rediscovered a while ago, ripens two weeks after Pinot Noir, smaller berries, thicker skins. In German it’s named “Fränkischer Burgunder”, one of the old French names is “Petit Pinot”.

There is one last biodiversity project for that vineyard in the pipeline and a little more to say about the ecosystem design so I think It’ll be better to write a separate post when it’s finished.

For now fingers crossed for all of you struggling with the consequences of the pandemic. And for the 20 vintage going through the last 2 potentially dangerous frost weeks.

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