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Grape Growing 101

Location Location Location

To create great wine, the location must dictate the choice of
grape varietal, as the wine is shaped by the land from which
it comes. The perfect site is one that brings out the unique nuance of the grape and compliment the requirements of
the grape varietal.

In addition to the proper soils and water quality and
availability, characteristics such as air flow, drainage, and
adjacent uses should be considered when determining the
perfect location.
LDV Grape Growing 101


The soil composition of a vineyard is of paramount
importance for the type and quality of the wine produced
from the grapes. What constitutes suitable soil is
hotly debated and studied.

The composition of the soil, specifically its mineral
composition can give the wine its style and character,
depending whether the grapes were grown in granite,
sandstone, or limestone soil.
Grape Growing 101 - Soils

However the texture and structure of the ground can also shape the character and quality of the wine.

We believe that the rocky structure of the soil at LDV Winery will produce grapes and wines with more intense aromas, flavors, and complexity.

To grow quality vines, certain conditions must be met: light, warmth, and dry soil with just the right amount of
organic material to maintain healthy vegetative growth, but not too much or too little. Beyond that, a certain type
of soil, with certain type of mineral composition, can be particularly compatible to a specific variety of grape
---that is to say, it can determine the superiority of a specific wine.


It is critical that the grapes are grown in well-draining soils. However, the absorption rate is an important soil attribute. Too compacted soils can starve the roots of water. Grapes typically tend to be stressed in the short-term but need adequate water to ensure a strong root system, stems, and quality grape clusters. Good drainage at LDV Winery is critical particularly during the summer monsoon months. Our vineyards have a one- to two-percent overall grade draining toward Ash Creek. Grape Growing 101 - Drainage


The European philosophy of wine quality was developed by the French; they describe it as “terroir.”

Terroir is much more than just soil. Bruno Prats, owner of Chateau Cos d'Estournel in Saint-Estephe, once expressed this concept of quality as follows: “An infinite number of factors influence wine: temperatures, both day and night,
the distribution of rain over the year, number of hours of sunshine, the deep structure of the ground, its pH value, its ability to retain water, its mineral composition, the shape of the terrain, the direction of the sun, to name only a few.
The effect of the interaction of all these factors is what we in France call terroir.”
Grape Growing 101 - Terroir

Grafting Grapevines

Grafted vines are rootstocks to which the scions of noble
grapevines have been attached. The scion bears the genetic
code of the desired grapevine variety; the rootstock
contributes the qualities needed to form an appropriate
root system.

Although the variety of the rootstock is not critical, its
genetic makeup must be suitable to the soils into which it
is to be set; above all, it must be genetically resistant to
pests and viruses.
Grape Growing 101 - Grafting

At LDV Winery, rootstock is tailored to the Chiricahua Mountain region in southeastern Arizona and the clone of grape varietals such as Petite Sirah, Syrah, Grenache, and Viognier are grafted to the rootstock. We typically use rootstock 1103P or 110R. The grafted grapevines are planted in California for a year before being transported to the vineyard just two days before planting. It is critical to choose the right rootstock and clone for our region and to plant within days of receiving the new vines.


The grapevine is one of the toughest, most un-demanding,
and most adaptable plants in the world. But that doesn’t
mean it is easy to grow great grapes. It grows well
in poor soil, lacking in nutrients, and under extreme

Grapes are grown in every state of the U.S. The wood of
the vine is able to withstand winter temperatures as low
as -4° F.
Grape Growing 101 - Grapevines

Grapevines tend to build a strong root system. Their roots not only anchor them firmly in the soil but also serve to store nutrients. In dry regions, the principal roots will penetrate deeply to reach moisture. Thanks to this root characteristic, the grapevine bears fruit even in climates that other cultivated plants could not withstand.

Grapevines carry an abundance of leaves, and much of the energy they need to grow is obtained through this canopy. The process is called photosynthesis, and it occurs not only in grapevines but in all plants. The green pigment in the leaves (chlorophyll) combines carbon dioxide from the air with water to form sugar. Light is the catalyst for photosynthesis, so the grapevine uses its tendrils to climb upward toward the sun. Even under otherwise ideal circumstances, the creation of sugar in the fruit can be reduced by stress due to a shortage of water. The grapevine,
however, is resistant to moderate drought, so is well suited for the arid Arizona climate.

Training the Vines

The grapevine is a climber. To grow, it needs something its
tendrils can cling to – stakes, a trellis, or stretched wires.
The design of these climbing aids determines whether the
vine will produce many clusters or only a few.

There are dozens of grapevine training systems. Which is
used depends on the climatic conditions, on the structure
and composition of the soil, and on whether the vineyard
is worked by hand or by machine.
Grape Growing 101 - Training

The cordon training system is the one most widely used around the world and is the one used at Lawrence Dunham
Vineyards. It makes pruning and vine tying relatively easy, requiring little experience or skill. The cordon system
entails leaving one or two arms of the vine permanently attached to a wire.


At LDV Winery the grapes are watered using drip irrigation. Water is monitored closely and changes are made depending on the amount of rain falls.

During the first two years of the life of a vine, the plants
receive slow irrigation directed through plastic tubes that are
protecting the lower segments of the vines so that water
reaches the roots directly. As the vine matures, drip irrigation
changes in order to allow the roots to spread wider.
Grape Growing 101 - Irrigation

Many would think that the reason for irrigation is to increase the plants yield. But in reality the purpose of effective
watering is to preserve this precious resource and to ensure the survival of the crop.

Mulching and Fertilization

Monitoring soil composition over time is important to ensure that plants are receiving adequate nutrients from the soil.
Therefore, there are times when some type of augmentation
is needed.

Some growers spread manure, green fertilizers, grapevine
chips, or straw; the choice and frequency of fertilization
(annually to every three years) depends upon the
composition of the soil.
Grape Growing 101 - Mulching

At LDV Winery, the ground between the rows is plowed during the spring and summer. The soil is aired and the weeds are mulched under. This is important because in dry seasons, the grass between the vines absorbs surface precipitation, creating serious competition for available water. 

Art of Grape Growing

Balancing quality vs. quantity is a constant issue as the
grapes mature. Some say that the quality of the wine
improves when the vine carries fewer clusters.

At LDV Winery we constantly monitor the vigor of each vine to determine if we have to “green harvest” or drop some of the green fruit when nature does not limit the quantity.
Grape Growing 101 - Art of Growing

If the fruit production is impacted naturally by disease, hail, frost, or damage to the flowers, we will obviously skip this
task. The quantity/quality rule is one we struggle with every day because a plant can only bring a certain number of
grape clusters to full ripeness.

Vines are pruned during their dormant period in the winter. Pruning is really important because is helps to control how
many buds will develop and therefore, how many grape clusters will be produced. We believe that pruning is a
balancing act between ensuring high-quality bunches while producing enough to receive an adequate return on the

Bud break or Budburst refers to the opening of the buds that remained after winter pruning. When the buds burst,
small green leaves emerge, quickly unfolding. This happens when daytime temperatures begin to average about 46°
to 50°F. Some varietals such as Chardonnay break their buds somewhat early; others, like Cabernet Sauvignon, open
later. Until bud break, the grapevine has obtained its nourishment from the stores of carbohydrates it laid down in
the fall. Once the leaves have developed, the vine begins to nourish itself through photosynthesis.

In the vineyard the signs of oncoming budburst some days before it begins can be detected. The cuts that resulted
from the winter pruning begin to show little drops of sap, a sign that dormancy is over and the juices of the plant are
beginning to flow. Soon, the nodes swell up, and are ready to burst.

Grape Growing 101 - Plant Lifecycle Plant Lifecycle - Like every other plant, the vine has its own growing cycle that includes a
growth phase followed by a ripening phase followed by a dormant phase.

This last phase begins after harvest in the fall, when the vine has an adequate store of
carbohydrates in its trunk and roots.

At that point the leaves yellow and fall off. Only in March do rising temperatures bring budding and the start of a new cycle.

Fruit Development is when the pollinated pistils begin their transformation into berries, while unfertilized blossoms
wither and fall. In early spring, the fruit is very small, green, and hard, but the grapes increase in size rather quickly.

Veraison - The French word veraison has become internationally accepted as the technical term for grape coloring.
In warm summers, veraison begins earlier, in cold summers later. This process is triggered when a certain level of sugar has been reached within the juice of the berry. Not all grapes take on color at the same time. Those that
have received the most sunlight and heat color first, while grapes growing on the shady side still remain green.
Mid to late July veraison begins at LDV Winery.

Determining Sugar Levels - At LDV Winery our winemaker begins monitoring the sugar and acidity levels of the grapes beginning in late summer to determine when harvest might occur.

This monitoring is critical because the levels can change rapidly
depending on the weather. If weather stays warm into
September it allows the sugar levels to increase and acidity
to decrease.
Grape Growing 101 - Sugar Levels

Hail at this time can damage the grape clusters, heavy rains can cause the grapes to swell diluting the sugar levels,
and cold temperatures can keep acidity high and sugar levels low. The ultimate goal is to allow the grapes to reach
their full varietal potential so that Syrah grapes have the characteristics of Syrah and Viognier tastes like Viognier.

LDV Winery uses a refractometer to determine sugar levels by measuring the brix or degrees of sugar. When held against the light, a drop of juice on the glass causes light to be refracted in proportion to the concentration of sugar in the grape juice. These scientific measurements of the brix levels are augmented by tasting the fruit in different parts of the vineyard. These techniques collectively provide important data about sugar levels.

LDV Wines & Vines Acidity Determination - Acidity values are another important determination of when grapes
are ready to harvest.

During the ripening phase, the fruit accumulates sugar, and the grape loses acidity. This
process occurs simultaneously, but not necessarily at the same pace.

If the grapes did not lose some of its acidity, all wine would be far too sour to drink. Some
acidity has to be retained to provide wine complexity.

Wine Growing 101 - Harvesting Harvest – Selecting the date to harvest at LDV Winery is both nerve-racking and exciting. There are so many things that are out of the winemaker’s control.

Once the harvest date is decided, we harvest the grapes as quickly as possible during the
coolest part of the day. It is critical to get the grapes to the winery and processed.

Picking the grapes is a simple process – the grape bunches are cut from the vines by hand
and placed in 1,000 pound plastic picking bins that are used to transport the grapes to the
winery. Small bins are used so that the grapes are not crushed from the weight and natural
fermentation does not begin in the field.

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