Data collection and land preparation
When it comes to growing grapes, there are two main things to consider before even starting land preparation: climate and soil. To properly ripen, grapes need the heat from the sun and the nutrients from the soil. Therefore, we took a close look at our climate data as well as our soil structure.
Living in the Fraser Valley within 100 km of the West Coast, we receive frequent and abundant rainfalls. It is thus crucial to have a soil with good drainage. Luckily, while clay is found in most of the region, our soil consists of gravelly sandy loam with some pebbles and rocks, probably left by a past river.
This loose soil structure allows the rain water to percolate adequately. It also reduces the fertility of the soil, which is desired for grape growing to force the struggling vines to send their roots deep in search of nutrients. The soil was analyzed in a lab to determine the levels of the various nutrients as well as the pH. The pH level being a bit low (5.6), we decided to add lime in autumn, before seeding a cover crop for winter.
As for the climate, the struggle comes from the general lack of sunshine during growing season (compared, for example, to the Okanagan). In our region, the rain is always a concern for the grower: it promotes diseases that affect the vines and the berries, especially during growing season (mildew, botrytis). The grapes often have to be harvested while not being fully ripe, resulting in a wine rather thin and diluted, lacking of depth and character.
Out of the 16 acres property, we outlined a planting area of 2.5 acres, enough to meet the minimum 2 acres required to be licensed as an estate winery.
The year prior to planting, we started working the land by plowing and tilling the field.
Before seeding a cover crop for winter (white mustard), we added lime to raise the pH as well as goose manure and fish fertilizer. The white mustard was tilled in early this spring, bringing us to the next step: building the trellis.