Vineyard Details and Sustainable Practices
Vineyard design includes contour drain tile to minimize excess soil moisture and ensure uniformity. We use drip irrigation when we experience prolong drought during the berry development phase. We utilize fairly dense vine spacing. Our front hill is planted on 4’ by 8’ spacing and our Riesling is 3’ by 8’.
We utilize permanent cover crops between our rows. Currently we are utilizing a mix of clover (nitrogen fixing) and rye grass. This is a rather aggressive combination and provides additional competition for water uptake, adding to our ability to minimize excess soil moisture. Every year we till over alternate rows of our cover crop to assist in reducing soil compaction and to enhance the organic content of our soil. Red Tail Ridge is experimenting with alternative cover crops. This year we are examining the utility of Sorghum; it has a rather unusual growth pattern and looks a lot corn. We are interested in this plant because it is an enormous biomass producer (organic matter) and is allelopathic. Sorghum roots produce natural compounds that inhibit growth of other plant roots in their vicinity. In this case, we are interested in reducing the incidence of weeds. Preliminary results appear promising, but additional evaluation is needed.
RTR employs integrated pest management (IPM) practices to monitor, identify, prevent and control vineyard insect pests and diseases. We are also collaborating with researchers and innovative companies to assess the potential of experimental biological control treatments to reduce our chemical use in the vineyard. Red Tail Ridge uses a mechanical weed knife to avoid herbicide applications. We are not certified organic or biodynamic; however, we utilize a sustainable and environmentally balanced approach in managing our vineyard.
All of our vines are on vertical shoot positioning (VSP) trellis. This allows us to continually reposition canes and canopy to optimize light exposure and airflow through the fruiting zone. This improves fruit ripening and also maturation and lignification of wood in preparation for the coming winter. Intensive canopy management techniques are employed when necessary to maintain vine balance and optimal fruit quality. We perform cane/shoot thinning, leaf pulling, and cluster thinning as necessary. All of our red varieties are hand-harvested.
We also perform routine petiole and soil analysis to assess vine nitrogen and micronutrient requirements. We compost our pomace and winery process waste (i.e. yeast lees, grape solids, etc) for vineyard application.
Red Tail Ridge tries to deter critters in a humane way. The vineyard is surrounded by an 8 foot deer fence. We also utilize bird netting to keep our maturing clusters safe.
Experimenting with obscure European Grape Varieties
The lion’s share of our production is devoted to Riesling, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. However, we are also testing some more unusual things for suitability in our climate and terroir. We have a small plot of the Italian varietal, Teroldego. We also have a few rows of Dornfelder—a German red variety. Next Spring we will be planting additional small experimental plots of other obscure varieties to examine their potential in the Finger Lakes.