With 100% estate-grown wines, our vineyards receive a lot of attention. Good grapes equal good wine. Grapevines don’t continue to produce quality fruit decade after decade, so it’s imperative to replant as the years move forward. This year, we’ve been busy replanting some of our acreage.
When you drive into Gainey Vineyard, you may have noticed some of the older grapevines being removed and new vines being planted. For example, the parcel out front to the right (West) of the driveway had 35-year old vines (Chardonnay and Riesling) and are being replanting with Riesling and Merlot.
To find out more about the replanting process read our Q&A with our Director of Winemaking, John Falcone.
1. How do we know when to replant?
When vines are typically not viable anymore. When farming costs outweigh the crop costs. When yields are down. The vines typically start to get weak and some can die off, and overall underperform. Then we know it’s time to remove them and start fresh.
2. Why do we replant?
When you replant, you are going to, hopefully, modernize the vineyard with the new technology (root stocks, trellis systems, etc.). You also might add varietals that might be more applicable or popular than what was previously planted forty years ago.
3. Do we amend the soil?
If needed. We do a soil sample and have a lab analyze the soil for nutrients and mineral content and find out if we need to make any additions.
4. Do we tear everything out?
Yes, all the old vines are pulled out along with all the trellising and irrigation. We replant the vines with higher density as well as upgrade our trellis system. The new “vertical” trellis system maintains a tighter canopy (shoots growing up “vertical” not horizontal). Tighter rows allows us to plant more vines within an acre and farm it more efficiently.
5. Do we change the distance between vines?
Yes. Previous vine spacing was 12’ wide rows by 6’ space between vines. Depending on the varietal we will have 6-ft wide rows and 3-ft to 5-ft between vines. Essentially, we are putting in more than double the vines. Higher density with vertical trellising will produce higher quality fruit. This method allows each vine to carry less fruit to achieve the same or more quantity per acre but less fruit per vine. This results in better fruit.
6. Do we plant the same varieties in the same place where we pulled out vines?
Yes, in some cases. In some cases no. We are putting Merlot where we used to have Riesling. Merlot is more in-demand now so we need those grapes. It’s a bit of a moving target though, because as we have other vines that are aging and will ultimately need replanting, we need to ensure that we still have Merlot available. In general, the flat ground does better with white grapes. And rolling hills and slopes are better for red grapes.
7. Where do we get our new vines?
We buy them from various vine nurseries located in the warmer areas like Bakersfield and San Juaquin Valley. They have thousands of acres of vines to supply all the wineries in CA and beyond. It is illegal to import international vines without going through agricultural agencies.
8. How long does it take after a new planting to get grapes we can use?
The first and second years are typically growing years for the root system and canopy. The third year is the usually when they yield enough fruit to harvest. It takes about five years to get a full crop from the new vines.
9. How long does it take to replant an acre?
We started in January pulling out old vines, we disked the soil, replaced irrigation, installed trellising, and then planted the vines. All in all, it takes around 7-8 months from pulling out vines to installing new ones.
10. How long will the new plants last?
On average: 30 years minimum and up to 100 years. Then we go back to questions #1 and #2 to determine what to do.
11. What do we do with the old vines?
12. Best time to replant?
Our new vines are planted in the summer.