The project started in January of 2013 with only 50 special Syrah cuttings. As we prepare the steep hills for planting the fourth generation of vines, the extent of the project is now plainly visible.
An army of metal stakes, orderly spaced at 3 x 2.5 foot intervals, covers the entire ridgeline, 15,000 strong. In the evening sun, the metal reflects a gleaming white.
Come January, La Cuadrilla will trim the growth of the 1,235 existing vines and cut them into small sticks, just long enough to fit five buds. The sticks will then be placed alongside each upright metal stake within a shelter tube. As spring arrives, the buds buried under ground will grow roots, and the buds sticking into the air will grow shoots and leaves, eventually yielding grapes.
Because of the tight spacing, all work in the block will be done by hand. Due to competition among roots and aggressive head-pruning, we will only ask the vines to ripen 3 clusters each, 25% of the fruit load in a modern, quality-oriented California vineyard. Less quantity per vine will lend to nuanced and naturally concentrated wines.
An Early Start
Our mid-November preparations and January 2016 planting will provide a full first year of life for the new vines. Aided by, fingers crossed, plentiful El Nino rains, new vines will be ready to give us a small crop in 2017. If we are lucky, the quality will rival the inaugural 2008 vintage of Ruben’s Block, which is planted in a similar 3’ x 2.5’ high-density, own-rooted, head-pruned method.
The full winter of prepping and planting also keeps our full-time crew busy at least five days a week – Even more job security for La Cuadrilla! Of course, because we can’t fit tractors and ATVs within the tightly spaced rows, the success of the new block relies entirely on the crew’s mastery.
A Momentous Occasion
Planting the fourth generation of this own-rooted Syrah block is the first of three vineyard additions slated for the winter. Combined, this is the most ambitious planting effort on the property since 2004.