Where Site And Growing System Meet In The Vineyard
“Good grape growing is knowing the site and knowing what it wants to do,” says David Wiemann, vineyard manager of Sheldrake Point Winery in Ovid, NY.
In grape growing, there’s an intersection between site, growing system, and variety. Sheldrake Point Vineyards is known for mastering the site and growing system equation.
Sheldrake Point Winery overlooks Cayuga Lake, and Wiemann says there are seven different soil types within the 44 acres of vineyards in production. The vineyard ranges from 458 to 578 feet in elevation.
This variation in both soil type and elevation influences the vigor of the vines. To control the vigor produced in the southern half of the vineyard due to water availability and soil conditions, Wiemann uses the Scott Henry training system. It’s similar to VSP, except Scott Henry uses four canes, two attached to an upper wire and two attached to a lower wire. While vertical shoots are trained upward in a narrow wall in VSP, the shoots in the
Scott Henry system are trained to go down from the lower wire and up from the higher wire.
“If you have a lot of shoots, this is the perfect training system,” he says. “If you manage to the correct size shoot, you’ll get the right size cluster.”
The system controls vigor and allows better light interception. Wiemann says vigor plays a huge role in the flavor profile of the grapes. The lower-elevation ‘Riesling’ vines planted in 2007 are on Scott Henry, and this helps control their growth and fruit yields.
“If these were on VSP, we wouldn’t get close enough to harvest. It would be too green or the botrytis would get in the cluster,” he says.
Wiemann and his vineyard team thins the canopy early, reducing the number of leaves before bloom.
“The sooner you do it, the tougher the berries are, and the better you can protect them and the less susceptible they are,” he says. “It’s about having the right amount of foliage.”
‘Cabernet Franc,’ ‘Cabernet Sauvignon,’ ‘Gamay’ and ‘Merlot’ are very vigorous and are a challenge to get smaller berries.
“They absolutely have to be on Scott Henry,” he says. “You get a higher crop level per vine, and the smaller berry. You need to understand the conditions that make the wine.”