Photogallery rendered here.
Early this month the frost season ends and “set” occurs, the term we use for the miracle of Nature that transforms grape blossoms into tiny grape berries. At this point, we begin to have some idea of the harvest we might expect, although it is still much too early for definite predictions. All two-year-old vines are now given special attention. On each vine, the strongest cane is selected and tied to its stake while the other growth is removed. The vineyards receive their final grooming as we again disc to eliminate the last of the weeds that can draw nutrients from the soil or rob vines of moisture during summer. Particular attention is given to the morning glory, a notorious vineyard weed that can strangle vines if not kept in check. Insect pests such as aphids and leafhoppers must also be controlled at about this time. Rather than spraying insecticides, I prefer natural control and therefore used to release thousands of ladybugs into the vineyards. The colorful little ladybug is the natural enemy of aphids and such makes short work of them. While the ladybugs are doing their job, Vineyard Managers are faced with the unromantic task of removing the weeds from around the base of each and every vine. Back in my grandfather Samuele’s day, this task was done by hand hoeing. At an average of 450 vines per acre, this meant that if Samuele were still around, he would need to hand hoe over 25,000 vines in our recently planted Le Gemelle Vineyards in the Sonoma Valley. My Dad used to tell me that hand hoeing builds character.