Omar Oliver – The New Kid & his Block

We are now 3 years deep into our unprecedented Syrah experiment!

Short white cylinders protect tightly spaced vines spanning up the steep hillside in perfectly straight lines. Each plant roots downward within two meters of 8 neighboring vines. Stacked on top of one another to force competition, the vines immediately penetrate limestone subsoil.
In 2013 we started with 50 special Syrah cuttings. 49 grew, and yielded about 5 new shoots each. In early 2014, we cut the shoots off near the ground, the first head pruning, or Gobelet pruning, of the vines’ lives. Ruben and his son Omar immediately replanted each newly pruned stick. The combined first 2 generations yielded on average 5 shoots each again last year. Recently, Ruben, Omar, and La Cuadrilla pruned and replanted all of them.

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Five year old Omar Solorzano will proudly tell you that there are now 1235 of these precious own-rooted Syrah vines – 3 generations stemming from the original 49 cuttings.

Omar might also attempt to count all the way up to 1235. Counting is interrupted by the temptation to ride his tricycle down the steep track.

If 2015 gives us another healthy season of growth, we will be able to multiply the number of vines again, to well over 5,000 – potentially near a full acre of 1×1 meter vines grown in only four generations. Possibly by generation 6, in 2018, all 7 acres of the planned project will be complete.

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The land, our highest elevation on the ranch, sat fallow for over a decade. Originally, Dad planted 10 acres of Cabernet here, but now we will plant in different row orientations, leaving depressions fallow, to total 8 acres of subdivided Syrah micro-blocks.
Omar is eager to point out the 8th acre, his acre. The large space left fallow in the middle of the already planted rows will take decades to fill in, rather than just 6 years. Currently, just one clump of posts and white protectors reside alone in the middle of the barren hill.
This is the Mother-Vine, the project that will mature alongside Omar. Ruben and Omar planted the single healthiest vine of the original 50 Syrah cuttings here. Rather than prune the vine’s growth to plant new vines, through Provignage, Ruben and Omar are keeping the second generation and now the third generation, connected. We are now up to 13 interconnected vine heads: 9 grandchildren, 3 children, and the original Mothervine.

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I look forward to giving many updates on this unique “project of a lifetime” in the years to come.