Vintage Update – March 2022
Welcome, springtime! March starts the sap flow in our vines as the new buds swell with life in the vineyards.
This month, vineyard workers will finish pruning by the Ides of March (the 15th) or sooner, closely followed by pulling out the remainder of last year’s brush. Finally, they’ll finish tying down the canes for the coming season. Though this step depends a bit on the weather, it should be wrapped up by the last week of March. Chardonnay canes become brittle in the cold and tie best in slightly warmer and rainier weather, but Pinot Noir is much more accommodating and can be tied down with no impact to the canes in any weather.
There are two methods to tying down canes for the growing season ahead:
- An arch cane (also called a European Loop) looks exactly the way it sounds – the cane creates an arch, which offers more buds per square foot and produces more fruit on the vines. This approach can maximize the production of the vines that are exceptionally vigorous. It’s not uncommon to see Chardonnay or Pinot Gris arch caned in vineyards throughout the Dundee Hills.
- A straight cane is much more common in the Dundee Hills, especially for Pinot Noir because the wine being produced requires more concentration in the fruit. When excessive fruit is produced, the flavors and intensity can become dilute. Too much fruit may also delay the ripening, which is already a challenge due to the short Oregon summer season.
Lastly, some vineyards will till the cover crop to enrich the soil with organic material, and reduce competition to the vines for water. Others will choose to allow cover crop to remain in no- or low-till strategies. Cover crops are key to maintaining soil health in our vineyards so they can continue to produce healthy, high quality fruit for decades to come.
Depending on the weather, we’re likely to see budbreak occur next month. This is a moment we celebrate in the Dundee Hills. The buds open to reveal the leaves, shoots and baby grape flower clusters that will grow and become the harvest we’ll use to craft our 2022 vintage. We’re just a few short weeks away from these vineyards becoming rolling green hills!
Photos by Mick Hangland-Skill