Starting out Strong

Author: Jack Grey

A gem of a photo… Toby and his Zanon ZL600

The start of 2021 has proven to be hard work but a solid foundation for the upcoming year. Personally, it has been a steep learning curve, with plenty of information to take on and a lot to do before bud burst.

Pruning and Dead Wood Removal

Here’s how it unfolded. We began the winter pruning at the end of January, working to replace the fruiting canes for 2021 and set up the vines for the coming years with replacement spurs. This was the most time consuming task that needed doing before bud-burst, and was a huge relief to complete! We finished making all the cuts for the pruning in April, and followed it up by pulling out the dead wood from the trellising. For this we tried a few different techniques as it can be quite frustrating to yank on a cane that is wedged between various wires. After multiple whippings from taut canes, plus some advice from friends in the industry we began using a hedge trimmer to make more cuts in the dead wood, thus allowing easier removal of canes with less chance of a smack for our troubles.

Mulching and Spraying

Toby has spent time mulching the prunings from the vines which will decompose over time, releasing nutrients back into the ground. He has also been in the tractor administering various sprays. We have had a few worries about frosts this April, and some of you might have heard of the disastrous news in France, where they have seen vast losses. We used a spray to protect our vines from damage and, touchwood, they have been OK. There have been one or two buds that have frozen on those cold mornings but so far, we are very happy. We are now keeping our eyes upon the forecasts in May to be ready for any cold weather. The firewood is topped up so we will be prepared for early morning wake up calls to get fires going if necessary. On top of the frost protection spray we have also used a few other solutions such as sulphur, to prevent mites damaging the emerging shoots, and copper to suppress unwanted fungal spores.

Tying Down

Over the past couple of weeks we have been in the process of tying down this year’s fruiting canes from their upright position so that they are laying along the fruiting wire ready for bud-burst. Avid readers with keen memories may remember last year’s post which included information on our tying down endeavours where we used the Max Tapener in 2020, which quickened the job drastically. This year we have gone one step further by hiring an electric Zanon ZL600 tying machine. Not only does this piece of kit seriously speed up the work, but it also makes you look a bit like a Bill Murray ghostbuster (see photo of Toby above). The operation has therefore gone quite speedily, and we are now up to the final stretch in Roundhouse.

Visitors Galore

In the meantime, we have started taking on groups for vineyard tours and tastings with Nat leading the charge on this and providing guests with a friendly and comprehensive guided excursion around Bluestone. Furthermore, Cholderton Rare Breeds Farm has reopened to the public and has seen a large number of guests come in to spend some time with the animals. It makes such a change to have visitors again and we look forward to welcoming many more.

So what can you expect next?

If you have visited the farm or the vineyard recently you may have noticed the new decking and balcony which have been installed. Our aim is to welcome people to these spots from June while also opening up the cellar door, which has a new bar and central table for guests to come and enjoy drinks, food and a chat. Last but not least on the list are the new domes that we have in view for June. We are working out the best locations for these and our aim is to provide people with a memorable experience in the domes with food, drinks and magnificent views of the vineyard.

See you soon!

With the sunnier conditions we hope to see you in the near future. Our Tours and Tastings are open as usual so do visit the website where you can choose from packages starting at £10.00 pp, up to £40.00 pp for a really in-depth private visit.

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