Drum roll please… Once again….Super FIS is the big winner of the incredibly stimulating wine regulation quiz! Congratulations! One of these days we will think of a suitable reward for your continued readership and diligence. This goes for any would-be contestants that have yet to join in on the fun. There’s always next time for all challengers. For now, we have to answer the other burning question on everyone’s minds ever since we posted pictures of planting. Where did all those holes come from?
Spring of 2013 was fast approaching and so was our order of grapes. What had not progressed; however, was our field. I distinctly remember an afternoon with the Fansler’s in early February amidst a few clinging glasses of Grey Bear vintages from long ago, Dave insisted over and over, “Dig your holes!”
There is one book that has been by our side through this entire journey, in which we turn to with all questions and guidance when the answers are not clear… Well, in addition to the THE Book, there is another one that is extremely well written for grape growers, guiding us from soil patch to wine bottle:
Dave actually recommended this book for us to read, and lo and behold I already had it and had read through it. Fancy that. His best advice, and what he had done in the past, was to first lay out a grid over all the land we intended to plant. Then, follow with a tractor and dig each hole individually at each spot marked on the grid, according to our desired specifications: vines eight feet apart along the rows and rows ten feet apart between each other. This allows enough room to get a tractor between the rows and for adequate ground for each plant to spread and (live long and) prosper. In Europe where land is not near as abundant, they tend to have rows much closer together, even approaching three to four feet.
So, we got to work. The bigger vineyards in the world use things like lasers with pinpoint accuracy to lay out perfectly aligned rows. We used two T-posts, bailing twine (and string), some industrial orange spray-paint, and an eight foot board. The process was simple: square off the vineyard using a nearby county road, walk off the distance at both ends to place the T-posts, and use a rangefinder (thanks, Mitchell!) to make it 135 yards from end to end to get our desired 50 plants per row spacing. Astute readers will recall that our 50 plants per row spacing became 48 plants per row, due in part to the inherent rangefinder standard deviation of plus/minus 15-20 feet. We then tied the bailing twine to each post and began flipping the board from ended to end all the way down the row while spraying every eight feet (length of the board).
Ever more astute readers will notice I also listed string in the list of supplies. Ah, but why would we need the string when we had bailing twine? No, we didn’t celebrate the day with joyous brotherly kite flying. The brilliance behind the plan was that spraying along the twine would mark it every eight feet, and we would simply move the posts ten feet over and “walah”, we have a string marked at each increment and just need to spray at the marking. Bailing twine is orange. Our paint was orange. It was at this point we realized the single folly in our plan and our father quickly chimed in with “you guys both went to college and had to trial and error to figure that out?”
We then procured some white string, tied it from end to end, and flipped the board every eight feet to get a string marked at the appropriate increments. Side note- many of the aspects of manually building a vineyard provide a natural workout, but if you don’t want to build a vineyard yourself, go out in your yard and flip a long board for the equivalent of 250 yards. It’s just great for the quads, shoulders, and back.
We didn’t get all 1000 dots sprayed in one go and, and if you aren’t careful, lag-times during a project can lend to a bit of human error…
You see, about a month after we painted the first 700 dots, Katy and I returned to spray the remainder and in my own mind, the measurements changed from ten feet between the rows to eight feet. Katy thought the dots looked too close and I assured her that the eyes can be quite deceiving when it comes to distances in a vineyard… We quickly marked it on the calendar as the first time I had been wrong about anything. Thus, we enjoyed the opportunity to walk back down that row spraying an “x” two feet west of each original dot to the correct specifications and a “?” at the end to notify the tractor operator that it was a “special” row.
If everything were easy, it would just be the way.