Kate Moss Has Nothing On These Vines
Taking a walk through the Revana Family Vineyard this morning with Matt from Barbour Vineyard Management was eye opening. I wanted to know everything there was to know, and he delivered.
Planted in 1998, the Revana Family Vineyard is made up of nine separate vineyard blocks totaling approximately nine acres. Seven blocks are planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, one block is planted to Cabernet Franc and one block is planted to Petite Verdot. I now know the rootstock and clones for each of those blocks, but will spare you the details.
What I found really interesting was the fact that even on a vineyard of our size (i.e. small), there are two very distinct soil types. Heavy, well-draining clay soil comprises the northern end of the vineyard while rocky, alluvial soil makes up the southeastern blocks. Each of the nine separate vineyard blocks is farmed uniquely depending on the soil’s needs.
A set of controlled irrigation lines deliver water to separate areas of the vineyard, allowing us to regulate moisture content on a section by section basis. Not all of the blocks, or all of the vines within a block for that matter, need watering at the same time. Pressure bombs are used frequently to measure the plant moisture stress of the vine which indicates the vine’s need for more or less water. Too much water and the grapes have no flavor; too little water and the vine will wither and die.
The vineyard is located on the valley floor in the heart of St. Helena and, as Matt would say, “it’s the supermodel of vineyards.” The rows of vines are planted about 5 feet apart to allow the sun to perfectly penetrate the leaves, creating a subtly dappled effect on the soil below.
As young growths, new vines are trained on a bilateral cordon, which means that the vines have a shorter trunk and the permanent branches, or ‘cordons’, are trained on a wire on both sides of the vine, creating a “T” shape. In addition to keeping the vines from simply dangling on the ground, training the vine on a bi-lateral cordon increases the exposure to light, improves air movement through the leaf canopy and makes the growth easier to manage. Due to exacting farming such as canopy management, our vines have beautiful uniformity.
After Harvest in the fall, legumes and other nitrogen-fixing cover crops are planted to manage soil fertility while improving the sustainability of the vineyard. Because cover crops can increase frost hazard, in early spring we mow the plants before disking them into the soil to increase microbial activity.
As a result of all of these vineyard management practices, we have healthy, vigorous vines that yield world-class grapes. Move over Kate, there’s a new supermodel in town.