In the Vineyard: February 2010

Riverbench vineyard in winter
Photo by Natalie Pranevsky

The New Year has brought more rain than we have seen in the last 3 years and we were definitely due. For the season we are at or above our average yearly total and more rain is on the way. The wet days have slowed our pruning progress, but with a good group of men and working through weekends, when dry, we have stayed on schedule.

Vines Riverbench Vineyard
Photo by Natalie Pranevsky

In the last week I have seen pruning wounds begin to “bleed” which is our first indication of the vines beginning sap flow and emerging from their winter dormancy. I expect our earliest varieties and fields to begin pushing buds by the end of the month.

The wet weather has made our tractor work, which includes weed control, cover crop mowing and mulching, slow, but again not more important than the needed rainfall.

Budbreak not only signifies the beginning of the 2010 vintage, but the likely need for frost control in most of our Santa Maria Valley vineyards. The large majority of vineyards use overhead sprinklers which provide a protective layer of water and ice around the tender new growth while others use wind machines to mix warmer upper level air with the colder ground level air.

This is a conflicting time of year for me; I am excited for the new growth and for producing great fruit, which will show great 2010 wines and conversely, the indefinite and frankly tiresome practice of being aroused from a good sleep and being out for long nights protecting our vines, looms in the coming months.

Nevertheless, grape growing is more than rewarding; it sustains our environment and brings joy and purpose to many in our Valley. I look forward to seeing everyone sometime this season “in the vineyard.”

NOTE: Jim will be hosting another free vineyard walk this May 8th at 1pm at Riverbench Vineyards. Please visit for more details.

Jim Stollberg manages vineyards for Maverick Farming Company in the Santa Maria Valley. He can be reached at (805)310-9322 or


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