Bechthold Vineyards is the oldest continuously-farmed vineyard in Lodi, originally planted in 1886. It’s only 25 acres, but the grapes are highly prized by clients like Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon, Abe Schoener of Scholium Project and Turley Wine Cellars. Kevin Phillips of Michael-David Winery farms this plot organically. Here’s what he had to say about the 2013 harvest.
In regards specifically to the Bechthold Cinsault, I am ecstatic. The continued love we have been giving that vineyard is really starting to pay off and I have never been happier with the quality or the yields. I believe our post-harvest irrigation of the dry-farmed vineyard is really adding to the health of the vines and paying off in huge dividends. Yields were up almost 33% to average a whopping 3.2 tons/AC. We even had a few extra tons that went to a couple producers who have been on the waiting list for years (McCay Cellars and Two Shepherds).
As for seasonal triumphs, I have to mention the Bechthold Cinsault again as well. We spoke earlier in the season about the devastating effects of spider-mites and the difficulty of controlling them organically. The Bechthold block has always been a hot-bed for mites and a continuous problem as long as we have been farming it. We decided to think outside the box a bit this year and try to control the mites differently. We employed 3 distinct strategies to reduce their numbers below economically damaging thresholds:
- We planted a permanent native California blend cover crop in every other row to reduce dust and also help harbor and hold native spider mite predators.
- We did a late spring release of Predator mites on every other vine.
- We applied a sunscreen material (Surround, which is essentially just Diatomaceous Earth) to the vineyard before the 14-day 105+ degree heatwave that hit us in July. This was done to prevent sunburn, but I think it may have had the added benefit of reducing inner-canopy vine temperatures, which in turn would slow/delay the exponential population explosions of spider mites which happen during heatwaves.
For the first time in my memory the vineyard hasn’t had a mite population explosion and we haven’t had to spray any materials (traditionally devastating to beneficial predator populations) to try and combat them. So, besides surviving another harvest intact, this has been a very rewarding triumph. We will try it again next year and see if it works again.