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We're pleased to welcome Allison Wilson to Domaine Carneros. As Vineyard Manager she will oversee a team of talented & committed stewards of 400 acres of estate vineyards. She brings over a decade of experience in sustainable vineyard management and a wealth of fresh ideas. Recently we sat down to get to know her a little better.

What have you noticed about grape growing in Carneros that is different than your experience further up valley?

In my 15 years of farming in the Napa Valley I have worked in every AVA in Napa County and I can confidently say that Carneros is the most complex and exciting viticulturally. Spanning over Napa and Somona counties, Carneros differentiates itself from the rest of the Napa Valley by having a cooler climate, and shallow clay soils. Additionally, the grapes that are grown here - Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, can be a bit more nuanced in their care requirements. I’m a farmer at heart and I look forward to the challenge of coaxing the best out of these vines.

Do you have goals for the farming program at Domaine Carneros?

Domaine Carneros fruit encompasses 6 vineyard sites, several of which were planted in the 1990s. Vines can decrease in productivity over time and often are replaced at this point in their life, but I would like to rehabilitate and enhance the health of these vineyards rather than replacing them. This is a much more sustainable solution.

What is happening in the vineyards at this time of year and what is growing while the vines are dormant?

The vineyard team is just finishing up pruning our 400 acres of vines. Bud break is the next phase for our vines, and we should see the first buds emerge in the next month.

We seed cover crop between the rows after harvest. Cover crop is used for soil health, biodiversity, erosion control, and weed suppression. We typically use two types of cover crop – permanent and soil building. Permanent typically consists of perennial plants such as fescue, ryegrass and clover. Soil building cover crops include nitrogen fixing legumes such as peas and vetch. Permanent cover crop will be mowed annually and soil building crops will be incorporated into the soil to build soil organic matter and increase soil microbial activity.

What do you love about this time of year in the vineyards?

Everyone thinks harvest is the most important time of the year, but pruning season is when the magic happens. We as growers get to make decisions based on vine physiology, vineyard conditions and often predictions, and our own intuition and experience. Our team carefully selects which canes to prune, how many buds to leave and how to train the vine – all of which will influence the outcome of the current harvest and set the stage for next year’s crop.

Photo credit: Bob McClenahan