Just when we thought we may have forgotten what the sun looked like, we have a week like this and remember why we live here. Here at Modales Estate Vineyards we had a great winter with no negative-degree temperatures throughout the season but plenty of snowfall to protect and insulate the vines. This set the stage for a full healthy crop making us happy grape growers. Winter slowly waned and in the second week of April we had weather in the 80s, prematurely waking up the vines. Although it was a welcomed respite for most of us who needed to thaw out from the winter, it was a different story for the vineyards. As the soil warms up above 48 degrees, the vine starts its growing process, swelling buds and starting the flow of sap. Farmers and gardeners alike know that we can still have frost conditions and if the vines break bud too early in the season the young buds can freeze causing crop loss. Just before the buds completely opened we had a cool-down that slowed growth, saving the vines from any significant amounts of damage. This week we are now seeing true bud-break on most of the vines and the season has truly started.
As many of you may know, Modales has started pursuing a path of sustainable grape growing, with the goal to be certified organic by next vintage (it takes 3 years of practicing organic farming to certify). Growing grapes organically is partly what we don’t do, ie; not spraying synthetic herbicides, fungicides, or pesticides, but it is also what we proactively do to steward our vineyards. This week we will be planting 10,000+ new vines at La Esperanza, including a new planting of Gamay Noir and Gewurztraminer. To prepare for this we will be cover-cropping our vineyards with a variety of beneficial plants that will incorporate organic matter and nitrogen to facilitate healthy growth for these plants, it also gives a home to many of the beneficial insects and bees that we want in the vineyards to combat the ones that we don’t want. We also will be applying compost to the La Gracia vineyard here at the winery site. We compost all of our grape pomace, lees, and bring in manure from our neighbors at Red Horse Ranch to be self-sustainable in our pursuit of fertilization. This compost will give the nutrients back to the land.
In an effort to further reduce any need for synthetic pesticides we are implementing beneficial nematodes this year, applying them to all 40 acres later this week. Nematodes seek out the larvae of Japanese Beetles, Fruit Flies, and Grape Berry Moth before they grow into their final form and parasitize them, reducing their population and the negative impact they have on the vines. This approach also protects the beneficial insects and native bees that we rely on to balance our ecosystem. We are excited to see the results!
We have begun to implement biodynamic principles within our farming system as well. If you don’t know what biodynamics is, here is our shorthand way of explaining – Biodynamics is rooted in the work of philosopher and scientist Dr. Rudolph Steiner, whose 1924 lectures to farmers opened a new way to integrate scientific understanding with a recognition of spirit in nature. Biodynamics has continued to develop and evolve since the 1920s through the collaboration of many farmers and researchers. Around the world, biodynamics is alive in thousands of thriving gardens, farms, vineyards, ranches, and orchards. The principles and practices can be applied anywhere food or wine is grown, with thoughtful adaptation to scale, landscape, climate, and culture. We are collecting and preparing some of the prescribed preparations including dandelions and nettle from the Modales property. These principles and practices focus on creating an environment for a vine to be healthy and to thrive eschewing the use of agrochemicals and helping a farm be self-sufficient.
This week is the real beginning to the season and we are excited to be out there working on what will be the wines you will enjoy in 2024. We hope to have you visit the property and see the hard work that goes into crafting Modales wines. Happy spring!