We are fortunate that our activities on the Black Sage Bench have piqued the interest of renowned soil consultantÂ Dr. Paul Anamosa, who has analyzed and evaluated vineyard soils in many prestigious wine regions. This week, Paul is leading a digging expedition to assist with the development of two new properties on the Black Sage Bench. The plan is to digÂ two pits per acre, each five feet in depth, to evaluate soil texture and structure as well as nutrientÂ availability. In short, weâ€™re trying to answer: whatâ€™s the soilÂ like?
Broadly speaking, soil analysis matters for two reasons. The first is to identify plots that share common soil characteristics. We can then design the vineyard soÂ that the soil in each block is as uniform as possible. This, much like using only one clone, best ensures vines will ripen at an even pace. As Dr. Anamosa maintains, â€œGreat wines are not made with grapes that have a broad variance of ripeness.â€
Second, Dr. Anamosaâ€™s analysis will allow us to make more informed choices in the vineyard design on a block-by-block basis. Soil characteristics will influence factors such as row spacing, vine density, trellising, rootstock selection, and irrigation. Ultimately, we want to work with â€“ not against â€“ what nature has provided. â€œMoving and sculpting soil is great for airports, roads, and strip-malls,â€ says Dr. Anamosa â€“ â€œnot vineyards.â€
Itâ€™s a time-consuming process. Dr. Anamosa examinesÂ the physical structure of the soil in every pit. In total, heÂ will evaluate 45Â pits over three days. He then draws soil samples from different layers of the soil profileÂ to be analyzed by an accredited lab.
From our experience on the Black Sage Bench, we know these two properties are ideally suited to late ripening varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Dr. Anamosaâ€™s analysis will help us fine-tune our planting decisions.
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