Stollberg echoes the concerns of many growers on the farm labor issue. He is concerned not only about the lack of available workers and increasing labor costs, but the lack of experienced labor in wine grapes.

“Until about five years ago, farm workers generally worked in one specific crop year after year. Today many of them work in different crops from year to year. For growers, this results in lost efficiency,” Stollberg said.

“We have to train people over and over on general vineyard practices and the detail work we do. I hope the big picture of immigration reform and a stabilized workforce gets sorted out soon.”

The top goal at Presqu’ile, Stollberg says, is to stabilize costs and increase efficiencies. Farm labor instability tends to increase costs.

Frost is rare at Presqu’ile due to the rolling hillsides and good air flow which is not the norm in the SMV. Stollberg has turned on the water a handful of times to protect the vines from the cold over the last six years.

Cover crops include blando brome and zorro fescue perennial grasses replaced every 3-5 years. The grasses are mowed in the summer to create a good “mat on the ground.” After the grape harvest, the ground is ripped to plant annual cover crops, including triticale and a vetch-pea mix, which grow quickly and help reduce hillside soil erosion.

Stollberg was asked about the areas were Presqu’ile excels in wine grape production. First on his list was production efficiencies, including employees who multi-task extremely well.

A second area, Stollberg says, is sound viticulture practices with a clear target at harvest on grape quality and quantity. This reduces trips through the vineyard.

He spends a lot of desk time planning and working out soil, water, and fertility issues to achieve these targets.

Stollberg said, “The result is lower physical input in the vineyard which creates more efficiency.”

Looking back at last six years of operation, Stollberg says he and the Murphy family are pleased with the progress made on the operation so far. The vines are maturing and achieve production targets.

In the future, up to 25 more acres (100 acres total) may be planted to meet Presqu’ile’s growing needs which would be about the maximum possible vineyard space on the property.

“We may not make many changes in varietals, but we might increase the clone diversity in Pinot Noir, including some Swan clones,” Stollberg said.

He will experiment with alternatives to traditional VSP trellising including head training and tighter spacings in Pinot Noir.

“We want to push the edges on traditional Pinot Noir growing techniques to get a different grape to gain diversity in the winery,” Stollberg concluded.

More news from Western Farm Press:

Citrus Research Board change to elevate HLB fight

Wine counterfeits didn’t begin or end with Rudy Kurniawan

GMO website developed to combat misinformation