The 2014 Season Starts on Misha’s Vineyard

An update from Andy as the new season starts to unfold.

Gewurztraminer buds in mid September
Gewurztraminer buds in mid September
With the unusually warm winter this year and early spring days, we are seeing buds well developed on Misha’s Vineyard and a start to the season about 10 days earlier than normal. While seasons always seem to have a way of getting back to a rhythm for an April harvest, it still means getting ready early to keep up with growth. In his last Blog update Rich predicted bud burst to be on September 16th, and I think he was right on target.

The issue with early starts is the opportunity for a cold snap from the south bringing spring frosts which can damage young vine shoots and flowers. So far there is nothing too frightening on the long term forecast but there will be a couple of months of carefully watching the weather. We’re lucky to have a mostly frost free site with the hills and gullies draining away the cold air down to the lake.

Pruning has only just finished – with Vineyard Manager Rich Williams still tying down the last of the new cordons on the Sauvignon Blanc. We prune the whole vineyard by hand with just 4 people – ensuring each of our 65,000 vines is individually considered to make sure we get a balanced and healthy vine producing the optimum condition fruit. Even from our office, 8km away, you can hear the audible sigh of relief when the last vine is finished after several months of repetitive detailed pruning.

Uniquely pruned vines in our "Fruit Bowl" where dual cordons help manage vigour.
Uniquely pruned vines in our “Fruit Bowl” where dual cordons help manage vigour.
The team are now dropping wires in readiness for the new shoots so that as the vines grow, our VSP (Vertical Shoot Positioning) trellis is ready for positioning new growth vertically. We use a 6 wire system to manage our canopy upward to ensure good exposure the sun without shading the fruit. This helps ripening at the same time allowing sunlight and air flow to minimize the risk of mould disease.

Early preparation for the season also includes checking of irrigation systems, getting the soil nutrients spread, repairing any damaged posts or trellises and making sure the machinery is all ready for another busy 6 months of work. We also have our compost made up of grape marc (skins and stems returned from the winery) straw and sheep manure, that has to be turned to mix and allow air flow to assist in the composting process. We also have started to hire the seasonal team to join our permanent crew in readiness for vine growth. This year we will have some workers from Vanuatu using the Seasonal Solutions scheme, and a student completing his viticulture degree at Lincoln University, joining the vineyard crew.

As demand for New Zealand wines keep increasing – especially for Central Otago Pinot Noir – we’re looking forward to yet another exciting and successful vintage that we can take to our local and overseas customers.

We’ll keep you updated as the season progresses.