Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Vineyard - Spring Pruning

With the temperatures climbing to 86 degrees last week and the Paso sky bluer than blue, I think we are finally on track for the start of a beautiful spring “in the vineyard”. After Mother Nature gave us increased winter rains this season, 22 inches in our vineyard, the vines are now ready for the next phase of their early spring routine, a haircut.

Yesterday as I walked the vineyard, as I do many days, I looked at the new spur pruning regiment we have implemented to again improve the quality of the vines in our vineyard and most importantly, the quality of the grapes these vines produce. Because the pruning strategy directly influences the number of shoots and the potential crop level (grapes only grow on new shoot growth), it is one of the most significant annual vineyard decisions we make as farmers. This decision will affect the balance of the vines throughout the growing season and the quality of fruit we harvest. We prune our vineyard each year with the intent to balance fruit production with adequate shoot growth, while still controlling the vine’s canopy (shading). The shoot numbers, their positions and the length in which the vine produces them, leads directly to the vine’s capability to ripen the given crop level we have chosen.

To achieve our increased quality and lower production levels this year, we are removing any cordon (the woody "permanent" horizontal branch of the grape vine) that is not larger than your little finger and prune the remaining unilateral cordon to only one bud per spur position, not the traditional two (the bud is the location on the spur the new shoot will grow from). We have trained our vines to the unilateral cordon style because of our dense planting, 6’ between rows and 5’ between vines, and because we feel the vine will ripen its fruit better and more evenly with this method.

Our pruning strategy will decrease the number of shoots the vine produces, increase the overall growth and health of the vine, increase the remaining shoot length and ultimately intensify the flavor and color the grapes harvested. As our great friend and former vineyard manager, Jim Smoot, would say…. we’re “Gucciing” the vineyard up to another level! Pruning is KEY!