Chill 07.15.21

The strongest oaks grow against opposing winds, diamonds are made under pressure and, for Joullian Vineyard, roots under stress cultivate high-quality grapes.

In a hat tip to classic French winemaking, Joullian uses a take on a technique called dry-farming, a process that requires a close relationship between grower and each grape plant, says ranch manager, Cody Kenyon. True dry-farming, which relies solely on rainfall to irrigate crops, is easier in regions of France that see 20 inches or more of rain through the growing season. For Joullian, which grows on a 30-acre vineyard in Cachagua, some artificial irrigation is required but the vines go under a similar stress test that produces high-quality grapes.

Depending on winter rainfall, Joullian’s vines come out of dormancy around late April. Between April and June, Kenyon waters the crops once a week, monitoring each for growth. Around mid-June, Kenyon cuts the water off for a month, which forces the roots to dig further down into the soil in search of water.

“You read the plants. You want highly stressed, sad-looking leaves, but it’s delicate because if you stress them too much, you shut down their natural process,” Kenyon says.

The stress triggers a biological response in the plant that produces a thicker grape skin and more balanced sugar and acid ratio. Kenyon brings the water back around late July until harvest in October. He adds the process allows the vineyard to be more resilient through droughts.

JOULLIAN VINEYARDS, 20300 Cachagua Road, Carmel Valley. 659-8100.

Christopher Neely covers a mixed beat that includes the environment, water politics, and Monterey County's Board of Supervisors. He began at the Weekly in 2021 after five years on the City Hall beat in Austin, TX.

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