Fratelli Perata Winery
The theory of grape growing in 1980 was aimed toward establishing a good root system. Since land and vines were then relatively inexpensive, it was less painful than it is now. The entire family prepares the fieldsVines planted were on their own roots. Meaning, the Zinfandel vines from Wente were pruned in the winter. 

A cane, or section, of that pruned vine was cut to approximately 18 inches and then planted in a nursery medium with almost all of the cane underground. 

At each bud along the cane that was in the soil, roots would form; the above ground buds would form leaves. After a year the cane has a good root system started. It is pulled from the ground, bundled in groups of 25, and sold.

The canes are delivered to the vineyard site in the winter, and buried in damp sawdust until the planting is imminent. While our canes were growing, Gino surveyed the vineyard for Gino staking the new vineyardthe layout of vines, water, and roads. Each spot for a vine was flagged. When the canes arrived, he used a one-man auger to dig holes 24 inches deep, following the flags. 

As soon as a hole was dug, the rest of the family followed. First, the roots of each vine were trimmed, then it was placed in the hole, pushing the roots downward (This may seem silly to mention, but many vineyards are planted by crews who don?t push the roots down and they are plagued by copious amounts of suckers forever after), soil was added, tamped down, then more soil as the vine was heeled in. 

Fratelli Perata vines were planted at 520 vines per acre. This was the usual and customary practice of the day. For us, it also meant that the natural rainfall would be adequate for the vines, so The rows are laid out so a tractor can pass throughwe wouldn?t need to supplement water during the growing season. And, being on steep hills, the tractor could still maneuver through the vine row with the rows 12 feet apart. Over time, the action of the vineyard disc would terrace the hills, making tractor work safer.

The newly planted vines were watered by means of drip irrigation: long black tubes set out along the vineyard row, with emitters dripping 1 gallon of water per vine per hour. This means of irrigation was developed in Israel. It is the most efficient in delivering a certain amount of water to a specific target and relatively little water is used.

Another system that could be used is overhead sprinklers. Here, sprinkler heads rise above the vine posts. When the water is turned on, the rotating sprinkler head waters the whole area. This is useful if there are spring frosts, as a grape insulated by ice can withstand temperatures below freezing. Due to our elevation, our vineyard didn?t need this. Here, the cold air simply flows down the hillsides and away from the vines.
Special irrigation trenches for the young vines. Later it will be dry-farmed.
Much more water is used with overhead sprinklers than with a drip irrigation system. Putting water to a shallow depth between the vine rows with overhead sprinklers struck us as wasteful. As conservationists - farmers, we believe in safeguarding the underground water supplies for future generations. Dripping water to a smaller, deeper depth between the vines train the vines' roots to go deep. These roots are less affected when Paso Robles? summer temperatures reach 100 degrees and more amd are deep in the soil where water from the winter rains reach, not up near the hot surface.

After the surveying, digging and planting, the irrigation tubes were rolled out. Then the emitters were punched into the tube to water each vine. The grapes were watered deeply, Starting to fence in the vineyardsthough not often, their first year in the vineyard. Then wooden posts were carried to the field, placed one per vine. 

They were hammered into the ground by hand using an iron cylinder. 

This, of course, is best done in rain softened ground, which meant carrying 5 or 6 or 7-7foot posts on our shoulder. This was before the 4 wheeler ATVs; but remember, we were young.

At the end of the growing season, each little stick had grown into a low bush. The following winter, we chose the strongest cane from each vine to be trained up the wooden post. The other parts of the bushy vine were pruned away. Again, the young vine was watered deeply during the season.
Young vines, Carol Perata and first child.
The trellis system was put up to support the next year?s growth, which would be 2 canes growing horizontally about 36 inches above ground, forming a T. One wire was placed to attach the cane, and then two wires were attached higher on the posts to catch the vertical growth produced by each cane. Over the years, new trellis systems were developed and tested. The system we initially used has come to be known as ?California Sprawl.? 

Each year, each vine required handwork, 520 vines/acre times 25 acres. Life became cyclical, following the vines? requirements. Winter, the vines were pruned and trained. Spring, new growth meant tying the vine to the post, then to the trellis wire when they were older. Summer, the young vines were watered, a few acres at a time. Fall, the grapes are harvested.
Part 1