Filling the Fourth
With the room that is to contain my future winemaking station undergoing a home makeover, it was time to shift back to the vines outside. The leaves having abandoned their vines, and the harsh Southern California winter in full force, I braved the elements and snipped away for their winter pruning in the forbidding 78 degree (F) winter sun. When complete, the trellis had transformed from a tangled, intertwined mess to a sleek, minimalist trio of T’s. It’s very satisfying to finally see the full frame, from which all future grapes will be grown, before me. As I stepped back from the last vine to admire my work, I stumbled, one foot in the hole where my fourth vine had been, a reminder of how much I have yet to learn.
The search for a Mourvèdre replacement has been ongoing without much success. Previously, a reader of WineMaker Magazine online had been kind enough to offer me an extra vine he had on hand. At the time, I had concerns for the vine. It looked meager compared to the Zinfandel and Mourvèdre I had planted. After Christmas, I finally got around to scraping to get past the bark, checking the health of the vine, and sadly confirmed it was dead. There was no green, neither above nor below the graft. This meant I was back on the search for a replacement.
Previously I had purchased my vines from Rockin-L-Ranch on eBay and that experience was so easy and positive, that it covered up how difficult it is to find an online resource for a small urban home vineyard like mine. Most reputable sources online usually have a minimum purchase of 25 or more, quantities far too large for the spatially challenged. I discovered that the owner of Rockin-L-Ranch, Richard, an incredibly helpful and informative resource, apparently passed away this past year. When I bought my vines a couple years ago one of the vines was dead on arrival, he not only shipped a replacement but thoroughly answered all my emails and offered me additional resources and useful links for maximizing my chances for success. Based on posts from others in various wine forums, I am not alone in my appreciation of Richard and Rockin-L-Ranch.
As I am trying to locate a source for a Syrah to replace my Mourvèdre, buying individual dormant rootstock comes to the forefront as one of the biggest challenges of starting an urban home vineyard like mine. At the moment my options are: to pay about 5 times more by purchasing a bundle of 25 from a reputable source online; to take a chance and buy single vines at quite a premium from a disreputable online source (“F” rating with BBB) here in California; to drive out to the nearest wineries (1 hour trip) to see if I can sweet talk someone into selling me individual vines. Given I don’t want to waste money or perfectly good vines, nor reward a poor business model and potentially throw my money away, I am going to attempt a few visits to local wineries (besides it’s the only options with wine tasting built in).