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Johnson Estate Winery

Frederick Johnson
March 23, 2021 | Frederick Johnson

Preparing for a New Chardonnay Vineyard - What Takes Five Years?

Taking advantage of early spring dry weather to prepare for 12,500 new Chardonnay vines. 
The seagulls from Lake Erie are looking for grubs and helping to fertilize!

What Takes Five Years? 
To change a field from one variety of grapes to a new variety. Here are the steps:

  • After harvest, we remove the old vines, and trellis system including the posts.
  • The following spring, we plant Sudan grass which is a kind of Sorghum that grows in very thick stands eight feet tall.
  • That fall, we mow and mulch the Sudan grass and then spread a generous weight of pomace (grape pressings from the winery).  We do this to rebuild the soil’s structure and to boost its organic matter.
  • The following spring, we disc the pomace and shredded Sudan grass into the soil, smooth the field, and plant Sudan grass again.
  • In the second fall, we shred the grass and add more pomace.
  • Finally, in the spring of year three, we disc in the prior year’s shredded grass and pomace, smooth the field, remove large rocks, to prepare to plant the new vineyard.
  • Before we plant, we will install perforated drainage pipe under every third row to help keep the vines’ roots from drowning during wet spring weather. This is disruptive enough that we will smooth those rows again.
  • Then the rows are laid out on 8.5 foot centers, vines planted, trellis posts installed, lowest wires strung, drip irrigation tubing hung and connected, and cover crop planted between the rows.  Then we hope for sunny weather!

Before we can harvest our first berry of Chardonnay from this new vineyard, another three years will pass during which we add more trellis wires, trim, train and tie the growing vines, and pinch all the new fruit blossoms off in the first two years so that the vines can put all their energies into growing roots and canes.  This is, of course, in addition to the regular seasonal jobs of pruning and controlling weeds, insects, and fungal diseases.

So for this new field of Chardonnay, we expect our first partial crop in the fall of 2023, after picking our last crop of Delaware in 2018.


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