Planting in a Pandemic

Planting in a Pandemic

Spring arrived in the County this year with an unwelcome guest as the COVID-19 pandemic hit a tipping point in Canada. We made the difficult decision to shut down our tasting room and retail store in mid-March, in the hopes of reducing the number of spaces where community spread could occur.

As we watched Canadians implement physical distancing measures across the country, we tried to imagine what summer in the County could possibly look like. It seemed clear that a change was essential, and we would have to let go of some of the plans we’d made for the season.

We’ve decided to put the outdoor kitchen on hold, and focus on our tasting room instead. We’re still expanding the crushpad to include more seating and standing room, with a large covered area overlooking the vineyard. And most importantly, we’re preparing our vineyard site to give it the best possible outlook for the future.

All of the old vines were removed in the fall, and new planting areas freshly tilled. In early spring we installed tile drainage throughout the low-lying wet spots prone to flooding. Next month we’ll add organic matter and soil amendments to the shallow topsoil, building up depth and adding much needed nutrients to the earth. The vines will be planted in June, and tended to throughout their pivotal first growing season by our vineyard team.

Grape growing is not an industry that can be temporarily shut down and restarted at will. A lapse in maintenance can push back vine development by a full year, resetting the clock on an already slow-to-mature crop. The biggest threat to our baby vines in their first growing season will be drought and competition from weeds. The primary task of the vineyard workers will be to keep the weeds from choking out the vines, and hand watering if necessary. They’ll also install a trellis system purpose-built for geotextiles, an important frost-protection measure.

The grapes themselves will mostly be clones of vines planted in Burgundy—Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Gamay. A few have been selected with features that make them more disease-resistant, reducing the need for chemical pesticides. Our hope is to certify the estate vineyard as sustainable once the vines are healthy and established.

For a taste of what’s to come, keep an eye out for our new releases over the next few weeks. Richly textured Pinot Gris fermented in French oak barrels, fruit-forward and refreshing Gamay Rosé, and delicately perfumed Pinot Noir represent our vision for the future of Redtail—quality, terroir-driven wine made with as few interventions as possible. We’re so proud of these wines and can’t wait to share them with you.