By spending all this time up in the vineyard, the lower pasture grasses have a chance to catch up and will provide the sheep with fresh grass as we head into winter. They'll go back to work in the vineyard in early spring and stay in there until bud-break in mid-April when they are allowed to roam free on the property, keeping all our lawns mowed down. Ya gotta love 'em!
In the fall, we collect their manure that has accumulated near the sheep barn and compost it with the grape pomace (skins, seeds, stems left over from the wine-making process). This composts over the winter and is ready to return to the vineyard in the spring, adding again the nutrients and organic matter that help keep our vines healthy. This inter-connectedness and re-cycling of what is produced on our farm and vineyard is a beautiful example of sustainability and eco-balance. We honor our sheep by including an image of them on our label. They truly are an integral part of Ankida Ridge and the wines we can create.
Before winter sets in during this quiet time of late fall, we go into the vineyard and remove any secondary fruit or missed clusters. It is important to remove this fruit from the vine because it could be a source of fungal pathogens that could overwinter on the vines and infect the young fruit next spring when the weather warms up.
Strolling through the autumn vineyard and snipping off this fruit is actually a lovely job, especially when the sheep are in there with me. They tend to congregate around me. I love sitting on the ground as they gather around and sniff my hair and put their chins out for me to stroke them. This time of year is my favorite, when the days are warm, the breezes cool, immersed in the peacefulness of a quiet vineyard. Just beautiful.
In the winery, we continue to smell the wine in the barrels daily. Our 2010 vintage inventory is depleting fast, which is good and bad, as we have to limit our sales now to have enough wine left to carry us through the release of our 2011 vintage.