With the 2011 harvest behind us and budbreak in 2012 still two months out, it is a restful time in the vineyards atop our Spring Mountain ranch. The quiet is deceptive, though, as this dormant period is the perfect time to evaluate the soil in a small vineyard block that will be replanted in 2012. The process begins with a soil “test pit” dug in multiple locations of the block. From there, soil from each test pit is examined visually and sent to a lab for analysis of its components. When we fully understand the makeup of the soil, we are able to select the ideal combination of rootstock and scion (the part of the vine that grows above the soil) for each soil type that is present in the block.
Extensive soil analysis of the entire Pride Mountain Vineyards property was done as our vineyards were planted, and this analysis identified six major soil groups that are woven together to make up the Pride estate. However, even this “big picture” analysis does not tell the whole story. Taking an in-depth look at the block to be replanted, a 3.25 acre block named “Callie’s,” we found one of our six main soil types, as well as veins of other soils that defy characterization.
The classic soil type that turned up in one of the test pits is the Goulding soil, which covers about 75% of the Pride estate (although it is otherwise very rare in the Mayacamas mountain range where we are located). The Goulding is a shallow soil comprised of rocky, gravelly loam formed by the breakdown of metavolcanic rocks. This soil is excellent for wine grape production due to its drainage and shallow depth which limits root growth. The Goulding section of our Callie’s block will be planted on 3309 rootstock, a moderately vigorous selection which does well on most of our estate.
In addition to the Goulding soil, we found a vein of rich, black earth running through the South-East corner of the block. This section will require a very low vigor rootstock, Riperia Gloire, which will greatly limit our vines’ access to the relatively abundant (by mountain standards) water and nutrients in this area. In the West portion of the block, we identified a red volcanic soil with higher clay content than the Goulding section. This area will be planted on 101-14 rootstock, which is a low vigor selection that is slightly less limiting to the vines than is Riperia. Each rootstock block will be on a separate irrigation system, allowing us to water each according to its own unique needs. This is a lot of fine-tuning for a block that will yield less than 600 cases of wine, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. This type of micromanagement of our vineyards is what allows us to obtain maximum quality from each unique parcel on our ranch, and creates the wines of intensity, finesse and depth that are synonymous with Pride.
Photo at top of page: Wind Whistle Replant
Below: Soil Pits, Goulding Soil, Red Clay Soil, Rich Black Soil