At Hill Family Estate, we like to say that we are farmers first and winemakers second. Our owner Doug Hill has been planting and farming vineyards throughout the Napa Valley since the 1970s. Hill Family Estate has 12 vineyard sites throughout Napa Valley and manages 120 planted acres, primarily in Atlas Peak, Oak Knoll and Carneros. Vineyard management is truly a labor of love, and throughout the year, each vine is touched by hand an average of 12-14 times!
As we approach the spring, activities are underway to prepare the vines for the 2022 growing season. From January through early March, each of our Yountville vineyards are pruned by hand, one vine at a time. Pruning prepares the vines for imminent budbreak, which occurs between March and April, depending on the particular climate at each vineyard site. Some vineyards are cane pruned, while others are cordon pruned.
Cordon pruning involves leaving a permanent horizontal cane on the wire each year and cutting the one-year growth back to that base. Overtime, that permanent cane grows stronger and thicker each year. This creates the traditional “T” shaped vine that is recognizable throughout Napa Valley.
Cane pruning involves replacing the one-year canes with a new cane each winter. Rather than building a permanent horizontal cane, a new cane is laid horizontally each year as the starting point for new growth in the coming season.
The 2022 growing season is already off to a very promising start. In the fall and early winter of 2021, we were graced with nearly 20 inches of rainfall, compared to just 2.5 inches in 2020. It has been such a welcome sight to see our valley’s hillsides green and our ponds full. While our drought isn’t over yet, the additional rainfall will make a big difference in our Yountville vineyards this year.
As the season progresses, we look forward to seeing how this vintage develops over the spring and summer months, until harvest begins in August and September.