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When the recent series of rainstorms blew through Napa Valley, soil erosion was minimal across John Anthony’s Napa Valley estates. Careful winter cover cropping and slope management made the difference, a reflection of John’s viticultural expertise.
We now enter the new year with an excellent reserve of soil moisture, the likes of which we have not seen since the stellar 2015 vintage.
The rainfall has been a boon to Napa Valley winegrowers, replenishing vineyard soils and water sources across the region. At the John Anthony Vineyards’ estates, the high soil moisture has set the pace for the 2023 growing season and expectations for the vintage are already high.
The persistent late December and early January rainstorms in Napa Valley were a welcome sight. In the succinct words of Sander Scheer, John Anthony Vineyards Director of Vineyard Operations at FARM Napa Valley: “It was incredible.”
Replenished soils will provide a nourishing resource for healthy shoot growth and excellent canopy development. All of this minimizes the need for supplemental irrigation early in the season.
“It’s always great when we can start off like this, with the soil moisture at what we call ‘field capacity’—fully saturated,” Sander added.“You hear a lot about vine stress translating to enhanced fruit quality and concentration, but we’re not really interested in stressing the vines until later in the growing season.”
All that said, the John Anthony Vineyard team would still like to see additional rain leading up to bud break, which typically starts in mid-March. “Once you get some days in the ’70s, especially if it’s breezy, things can start to dry out pretty quickly,” Sander says.
Erosion control is something that the John Anthony Vineyard farming team takes seriously, as part of a larger commitment to responsible farming and environmental sensitivity. Persistent heavy rains can put erosion control measures to the test, but the John Anthony estates passed with flying colors this year.
Cover crops are planted every winter, including beans, peas and vetch. Their predominant benefit is to impart natural nutrients to the soil, but they also help control erosion by binding the soil together. Such cover crops are plentiful at our valley floor estates, such as R/D and GnR vineyards in the Oak Knoll District.
Along steeper slopes, such as those found at our Twisted Oak Vineyard in the Oak Knoll District and Carneros Gap Vineyard in the Los Carneros AVA, the vineyard team seeds the ground with perennial grasses, which provide an even stronger erosion-control presence. Finally, they flake out bales of wheat straw in steeper zones of the vineyard, further inhibiting runoff.
All of these measures paid off, making the rainfall a win-win for the John Anthony Vineyards team.
Terroir and Team
In short, John Anthony’s 20th anniversary year is off to a banner start, potentially foreshadowing stellar wines from the upcoming 2023 vintage. No matter what Mother Nature brings our way, we are grateful for our farming team’s outstanding skills and dedication to growing the best wine grapes possible. Worthy of particular mention is Rene Alejo of FARM Napa Valley, awarded joint first place in the 2023 Napa County Pruning competition. We are proud and grateful for our incredible terroir, this amazing team and the exceptional wines we craft.