Between the Vines is a biweekly column on wine and winemaking in the Livermore Valley region. This column was contributed by Galles Vineyard owners Harry Galles and Linda Nidever-Galles.

What's happening in Livermore Valley vineyards this month?

From April to late October we focus on growing the best grape possible. By November, harvest is over, and the eternal vineyard maintenance cycle continues with a different emphasis. Equipment must be cleaned, serviced and stored for next season. The long dry spell means that watering the vines must continue until they are dormant in order to maintain vine health. Like all deciduous plants, cold temperatures drive the transformation to the dormant state but the root systems continue to need moisture until the rains arrive.

November is the start of major vineyard trellising system maintenance -- repairing broken wires, tightening sagging vine training wires, fixing broken, bent or leaning posts and then dropping the support wires to allow vine pruning in the winter. We have east/west rows that are terraced on much of our property, so wind exposure is a factor in the stability of the trellising system. Hearty winds blow from the south west, pushing the canes heavily against the north wires. This causes wires to become loose and saggy by the end of the season.

Before the first frost, our drip irrigation system needs to be flushed, clogged drippers replaced and the holes created by coyotes and ground squirrels seeking water during the summer need to be plugged. Maintenance of the drip system is critical to make sure each vine gets sufficient water during the growing season to develop robust, flavorful fruit. We are also digging divits in the soil below the drippers on our hillside vines to trap the water and keep it from running off down the hillside.

Our vineyard is located in the east end of the Livermore Valley about 100 feet above the valley floor with western sun exposure and beautiful views. When we bought the property in 1998, we wanted to do something productive with the land. We discovered the wine business through our relationship with the Taylor family at Retzlaff Winery and decided to plant a vineyard.

We worked through the summer of 1999 in the evenings and weekends clearing the land, removing fencing and dropping trees, then contracted with Wente to plant our cabernet sauvignon vineyard in 2000. Neither of us had any experience farming or growing grapes, so we took classes at Las Positas College and hired a consultant to help us learn the ropes. In 2004, we began selling grapes to local wineries, including Retzlaff, Cuda Ridge Wines, Occasio and Fenestra. The rest is history, hard work, love of the land and a passion for great grape quality.

wine country events

  • Thomas Coyne Fall Open House -- Noon to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday at Thomas Coyne Winery, 2405 Research Drive in Livermore; www.thomascoynewinery.com. Join us at our new location for the release of five exciting new wines: 2011 California Merlot, 2010 Vino Tinto Reserva, 2010 Livermore Valley Zinfandel, 2012 Livermore Valley Pinot Blanc and 2009 Contra Costa Mourvèdre.

  • Holidays in the Vineyards -- Noon to 4:30 p.m. Dec. 7-8 at 35 Livermore Valley wineries. Visit www.LVwine.org for a list of participants. Admission is free. Tasting fees vary by winery. Wineries across the valley will showcase their tasting rooms with arts and craft vendors, special wines, festive activities, Santa visits, carolers and more. Guests are encouraged to bring unwrapped toys to their favorite wineries. All toys will be donated to the Pleasanton-Livermore Fire Association's Toys for Tots Program after the event, directly benefiting children in need throughout Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.