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Stories from the valley

Putting our vineyard to bed

Contributed by Tim Johnson

Harvest has been finished for enough weeks now to be on to other seasonal chores in the vineyard. Deliveries are done and tractors back inside. The bins have all been rinsed and stacked in the end of the shop waiting for next year’s grapes. Most importantly we gave the grapes one last irrigation.


It may seem unnecessary to water vines that will soon be leaf–bare and dormant. We even got a little rain in recent days, surely that helped.  By November storms will be coming in at a regular pace. Why would we go back and irrigate?

For wine grape growers, the last weeks before harvest are all about stressing the vines. For a month we weaned the vines from their already meager rations of water, in order to speed maturity and raise the sugar levels.


This process is so intense that some vines start to lose leaves. Let go too far and the vine actually collapses.

As soon as the crew finishes a block, we turn on the drip system for the final irrigation. The vines perk up and are able to store the last energy from the leaves before the drop for the winter.


We use the same moisture meters we relied on all year to make sure we don’t over irrigate, closely monitoring water levels at 1, 2 and 3–foot depths. Once the water hits the bottom of the roots, we turn it off.

With the nights getting cooler, we will soon turn the water off to the vineyard and protect the pipes from freezing. Extra steps now ensure no leaks in the spring.

After harvest, it’s all about putting the vineyard to bed for the winter. Like when my kids were young, we send them to bed with a good drink of water.