Soil and Vines
Vineyard Details and Sustainable Practices
Vineyard design includes contour drain tile to minimize excess soil moisture and ensure uniformity. We use drip irrigation when we experience prolong drought during the berry development phase. We utilize fairly dense vine spacing. Our front hill is planted on 4’ by 8’ spacing and our Riesling is 3’ by 8’.
We continually work on various projects in our vineyard such as:
Utilizing permanent cover crops between our rows. Currently we are utilizing a mix of clover (nitrogen fixing) and rye grass. This is a rather aggressive combination and provides additional competition for water uptake, adding to our ability to minimize excess soil moisture. Every year we till over alternate rows of our cover crop to assist in reducing soil compaction and to enhance the organic content of our soil.
Experimenting with Sorghum plants because they are an enormous biomass producer (organic matter) allelopathic plant. Sorghum roots produce natural compounds that inhibit growth of other plant roots in their vicinity. In this case, we are interested in reducing the incidence of weeds. Preliminary results appear promising, but additional evaluation is needed.
In 2011 and 2012 we worked with an outside company to compare fungicide programs with and without a natural occurring biological control agent, Regalia Biofungicide (EPA Reg. 84059-3) for season-long control of powdery mildew, downy mildew and botrytis bunch rot. The evaluations were conducted within a 10 acre block of our Riesling grapes. As Regalia replaced a chemical fungicide in the powdery mildew program the results strongly support the use of Regalia for control of powdery mildew. No conclusion could be reached regarding downy mildew, and the Botrytis results were mixed. Regalia is now a part of our IPM program below.
Sustainable management for the Japanese Beetle, which can cause significant defoliation in vineyards. This project conducted by Cornell University, targeted the grass areas surrounding our vineyard with naturally occurring organisms, entomopathogenic nematodes (insect feeding) to reduce the adult beetle population and leaf feeding. As of 2013, soil samples show that the two species of nematodes introduced have been established and the assessment of the beetle larvae and adults is ongoing.
RTR employs integrated pest management (IPM) practices to monitor, identify, prevent and control vineyard insect pests and diseases. We also use a mechanical weed knife to avoid herbicide applications. We are not certified organic or biodynamic; however, we utilize a sustainable and environmentally balanced approach in managing our vineyard. Read more on our sustainability practices by clicking here.
All of our vines are on vertical shoot positioning (VSP) trellis. This allows us to continually reposition canes and canopy to optimize light exposure and airflow through the fruiting zone. This improves fruit ripening and also maturation and lignification of wood in preparation for the coming winter. Intensive canopy management techniques are employed when necessary to maintain vine balance and optimal fruit quality. We perform cane/shoot thinning, leaf pulling, and cluster thinning as necessary. All of our red varieties and a significant portion of our whites are hand-harvested.
We also perform routine petiole and soil analysis to assess vine nitrogen and micronutrient requirements. We compost our pomace and winery process waste (i.e. yeast lees, grape solids, etc.) for vineyard application. Red Tail Ridge tries to deter critters in a humane way. The vineyard is surrounded by an 8 foot deer fence. We also utilize bird netting to keep our maturing clusters safe.