“I like to think about what was going on the year the grapes were growing; how the sun was shining; if it rained. I like to think about all the people who tended and picked the grapes.” – Sideways
Those of you who follow us on Facebook know that I love to post photos of the beautiful scenery that is the Windrow Vineyard. I’m a “photoholic”, and can’t resist capturing the gorgeousness that is just outside my kitchen window. But what you don’t often see is the tremendous amount of work that goes into making that vineyard both beautiful and, more importantly, healthy and vibrant. So, let me introduce you to Bella Fortuna – the crew that helps us keep our vineyard healthy and happy and producing amazing fruit.
Owners/Partners Sharon Martin, Frank Jimenez and Stephanie Briggs came to us 2 seasons ago and have become an integral part of our vineyard team. Together, the 3 of them oversee a crew of 10-15 men and women, who work an average of 8 vineyard clients a year, including ours, which requires attention year-round.
From pruning in January to gently un-burying the canes from fall, this crew takes special, loving care to see that our vineyard is ready for the growing season each spring. Trellising new vines, mowing between rows and training the new shoots up into the wires all have to happen with rigorous attention, and these folks are meticulous in their care. When the clusters start to form, it’s critical that the canopy be thinned so the sunshine can ripen the new little grapes, and meanwhile there’s more mowing, (until we convince Doug that we need a small flock of sheep). The long, warm summer days soon take over the ripening process, but now Doug and the Bella Fortuna crew must watch the water, sunlight, and soil nutrition, as well as watching for pesky pests and dangerous winds. We are blessed with beautiful summers in the Walla Walla Valley, but that doesn’t mean we can take a break from our job. As harvest time approaches, it’s time for one of the most labor-intensive programs in vineyard management – bird netting. Birds love to eat grapes and we have lots of birds in the Windrow Vineyard. This process takes many days or even weeks, and must be done with patience and an exacting care – one tiny hole can mean major bird damage. Meanwhile, Doug and the Bella Fortuna partners start to plan their harvest; harvest is all by hand here at Windrow and so crews must be arranged, days planned and equipment and bins staged. It’s always amazing to me how quickly it seems over- after all the waiting, watching and planning, a great crew who know their business can work their way through a vineyard in what seems like only a few hours and then – like a snap of the finger – the grapes are sitting there, all warm and sticky in their bins on the crush pad. It’s exhilarating to witness.
After harvest is over we take a deep breath, do a little vineyard clean up – remove sickly vines, identify problem areas and clean and store away harvest equipment. As old man winter comes to take up his momentary residence in the Windrow Vineyard, the next cycle of canes are identified and buried with great care. These vines lay sleepy and dormant, protected from the bitter freeze that could always come, until the first warm breath of spring tells us to start all over again. Thank you, Bella Fortuna, for caring so much about what you do. We couldn’t do it without you.