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Cristom VineyardsCristom Vineyards

Matriarchs of Cristom Vineyards
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The first buds typically arrive on the vines in the middle of April in the Willamette Valley. Bud-break is the signal that things are happening in the vineyard; it’s also a sign that the vineyard crew must get to work de-budding. Like pruning, de-budding helps to balance the vigor of a vine. Just after bud-break, the crew uses their hands to rub off excess buds, selecting 8 to 10 preferred shoots per grapevine. This step is important — too many buds result in too many shoots, which causes too much shading of grape bunches and higher humidity. This increases the chance of mildew, and can also adversely effect the quality of fruit by putting too much of the vine’s energy into the canopy instead of the grapes.

Meanwhile, the soil is turned using old-fashioned vineyard practices and modern conveniences. The vine cuttings from the previous growing season are chopped up by a flail mower and then tilled or spaded into the topsoil. The cover crop of crimson clover is mended into the soil of alternating rows each year. The vineyard crew works to train new vine growth up the trellis, remove suckers from the trunks of vines, and hoes by hand the areas underneath the canopy to remove grass and weed competition.

As the grapevines spring back to life, so do pests and diseases, making this a critical time of year to protect the vines. The relatively low vigor of our vines – thanks to meticulous pruning and de-budding and our traditional trellising system — help to create conditions within the canopy that are generally not conducive to pests and disease developing.Nonetheless, threats are there, and in the Willamette Valley they appear as mites, powdery mildew, and rot (botrytis cinerea). Sulfur is usually the first spray of the year, typically applied the last week of April or first week of May when the shoots are 4 to 6 inches long. The sprays we use on the canopy are as naturally derived as possible (without compromising efficacy) and we weed and tend to the area around the trunk of each grapevine without using pesticides.