Our vineyard manager, Deny Dudzik, sets guidelines for the cultivating crew from Strictly Vineyards . They carefully prune each vine down to two or three new bearing branches each year, manage the canopy of leaves to ensure the right amount of sunlight gets to the grapes and reduce the amount of grape bunches to ensure proper flavor intensity. It’s a “high-touch” operation, producing only about two to three tons of grapes per acre, considered an ideal production level for pinot noir.
The Deep End Vineyard is farmed in the most environmentally friendly way possible. We plant a cover crop to guard against erosion and encourage beneficial insects and micro-organisms. We don’t till or use insecticides in order to protect those organisms. The Strictly Vineyard crew uses a mehanical weeder that dips in between the vines, avoiding the use of herbicides. The vineyard is primarily dry-farmed unless the heat spikes toward the end of the growing season, in which case we would apply drip irrigation. We reduce the amount of water needed for frost protection (the ice formed by watering on freezing nights releases heat, protecting the buds) by using micro-emitters that consume only one fourth as much water as sprinklers.
The season culminates in the timing of the decision to harvest. One key to ensuring a pinot noir isn’t too fruity is to pick the grapes just as they nudge ripeness. Deny assesses the tissue of the leaves, the taste of the grapes and particularly the level of sugar – ideally between 23.5 to 25 on the Brix scale – to choose the right moment to harvest. The vineyard seems to have its own internal clock, because the harvest usually occurs right around the third week of September or shortly before. Strictly Vineyards’ big harvest crew picks the crop just after dawn and the grapes are trucked in half-ton bins to nearby Baxter Winery before the day warms up.