New vineyard plantings.
Napa has about 45,000 acres planted to grapevines. And while this represents less than 10% of the county’s 500,000 acres (producing only 4% by volume of all the wine coming out of California), there is not much plantable land left. The valley floor is mostly planted and environmental regulations prohibit the clearing of trees and planting on most hillsides.
For the few remaining open parcels, there are some new vineyards being planted. Here is a rare plot of land in the recently designated Coombsville appellation (just east of downtown Napa) that has yet to be planted. In addition to vineyards, this area is dotted with horse farms and walnut tree orchards-a bit of the old Napa.
Vineyards seen to the left in the above picture were planted 2 years ago. This field has been unplanted for decades. In the background are the foothills of the Vaca Mountain Range-the eastern edge of the Napa Valley and the easternmost range in the California coastal range.
After “ripping” the field (a three foot hook is dragged through the ground behind a tractor to aerate and loosen the soil), the infrastructure for trellising and irrigation is carefully laid out. The tall poles are each hammered into the ground by hand and will support trellis wires and irrigation tubes. The smaller stakes indicate where vines will be planted. The poles on the ground are end posts and will be driven into the ground with a machine. Everything else is done by hand.
Irrigation tubing is laid out with an emitter placed just over the spot where each vine will be planted. A hole is hand dug for each vine. This vineyard was planted with a dormant bench graft-the rootstock and scion (the fruit bearing part of the vine) are grafted in a grapevine nursery. The combination of rootstock and scion (fruit bearing part of the vine) is one of the many fascinating topics in modern viticulture.
These barren sticks are planted in each hand dug hole. It was about 90 degrees in Napa the day this work was done.
After the stakes are driven, irrigation tubing laid out, the hole dug and bench graft planted, another worker comes around and places a white protective sleeve around each planting, tucks the irrigation emitter tube into the sleeve and attaches the sleeve to the trellis with a plastic tie. The sleeve will protect the bench graft from critters and give it a chance to get established. It took 8 workers a day to plant this vineyard once the infrastructure of the posts and trellising were laid out.
If you can find plantable land in Napa, be prepared to pay up to $250,000.00 an acre-some of the most expensive agricultural land in the country. You can pay up to $300,000.00 an acre for established vineyards.
Once you own the land, it can cost about $10,000.00 and acre to plant a vineyard and another $2500.00 or so each year to farm the grapes.
In two to three years, these newly planted vines will produce fruit that can be used to make wine. Keep in mind these are cabernet grapes and the wine produced from these grapes will likely be released to the market two to three years after the grapes are harvested. This could be the fruit that makes a 2019 vintage wine for someone…available to you in 2022…..
One of the things we hope you go home with after a trip with Pemberley Tours (in addition to some great wines for your cellar) is a new found appreciation for all the things that go into making a great bottle of wine!