Gallery Content

  • vine shoot at Le Ciel Serein vineyard

How does your garden grow?

Happy Earth Day! What better way to appreciate the miracle of our planet than tending a garden? For a little inspiration, we consulted with the ultimate green thumb, our Vineyard Manager, Alberto Zamora, who has overseen the farming of our six estate vineyards for over a decade.

rose bushes with chateau building in the background

Alberto Zamora - Vineyard Manager

We are thinking there must be some vineyard farming practices that translate to what people do in their gardens at home. Do you garden at home?

I have a lot of roses; you know, I love growing roses.

Is gardening roses similar to growing vineyards?

No, not at all. Roses are very challenging because their roots are more susceptible to mildew. I'm sure you have seen some vineyards that plant rose bushes at the end of the row, and some farmers used to say they put it there so when they see mildew on the rose bush, it's an indicator. The thing is the mildew strain that hits the roses is something completely different than the mildew strain that hits the vines.

Pruning over the wintertime, does that relate to home gardening? Does pruning determine how many shoots you're getting?

Pretty much. But note that when we prune the vines, we remove about 90% of the previous growth. Shrinking it down to bare bones basically. It's like when you prune roses, you come down to about 4-6 inches, the heavier you prune a rose bush, the bigger the roses will blossom because it doesn't have a lot of buds to compete with. The roses usually have 5-7 crops, the first one is the most beautiful in the springtime. They're bigger, the rose itself and then they become smaller and smaller as the bushes grow.

mustard cover crop in the vineyards

It starts in the dirt...

We know cover crops benefit the vineyards in a number of ways to include providing the vines with valuable nutrients. What does this mean for the home gardener?

Yes, we have five different types of cover crops we use here at Domaine Carneros. While most home gardeners use compost or sometimes fertilizer, if we have an area where the soil is low in nutrients, we plant fava beans or native species like filaree. Everybody knows filaree; those curly things get in your socks, but it provides the most nitrogen when it decomposes. Also, our mustard is a natural insecticide that kills harmful nematodes and phylloxera when spaded under to decompose. A home gardener who's fought with harmful insects in the past may want to plant some mustard next year!

Are there any vineyard soil practices that might benefit the home gardener?

We disk and mow during the month of March. Mowing turns the cover crop under and the disking breaks up just enough to allow moisture to penetrate and stay within the soil. Hand spading and tilling are similar home gardening practices that help with weeding, nutrient distribution, and moisture penetration.

Also, like many home gardeners in the northern states, you need to protect your crop from freezing. How do you do that in the vineyard?

That's actually another benefit of our March mowing! If frost comes in while our cover crops are tall, the cold actually gets trapped between the vines. Mowing frees up the area allowing the cold to escape during the crucial period when the vines are just coming to life.

cover crop in the vineyards

Bud break in the vineyards!

So, what happens when the vines come to life?

We have tiny shoots coming out now. It's fascinating to know that those shoots - along with the number of clusters it will eventually produce - were determined during the previous growing season. The shoot already created, compressed like a little accordion inside the dormant vine. With bud break, it starts expanding until it emerges as a shoot, and then it reveals tiny inflorescences that eventually become flowers and then berries.

We wait expectantly to see how many inflorescences each shoot will produce. Sometimes a shoot has one or two, but when you see three, you go "Oooohhh!"

So, more inflorescences translate to more grape clusters for the 2022 harvest?

Yes, exactly. Once that shoot reaches about 20 inches, you will see it first bloom and then set with three clusters on it as opposed to just having one or two.

bud break in the vineyards

Springtime in Carneros

When do the vines typically bloom?

They bloom at the end of May. Even with allergies, that is one of my favorite times. When you walk in the vineyard, you are smelling all the flowers. While some people say they don't smell anything, I have the sensitivity to smell them and it's beautiful.

You've been smelling that in the vineyards for how many years now?

I started working in the vineyards at Charles Krug when I was 17 years old. So, that's 48 harvests ago, and I've been managing vineyards for 36 years.

When you look at it through a macro lens, I'm always gardening!

Alberto Zamora in the vineyard with our estate barn

Alberto Zamora - Vineyard Manager

"My passion has always been vineyards. You really have to be very attentive to make sure you deliver a clean crop to the winery."