With a letup in the rain that is supposed to last about a week, we're taking the opportunity to get out into the vineyard to prune where we can. In addition to allowing us to shape the vine and control the next year's yields, pruning stimulates the vines to push earlier. So, in our frost-prone region, we typically start with our latest-pushing grape varieties (which we're not worried will sprout too soon and get frosted). We leave our earlier-sprouting varieties, like Grenache and Viognier, for last.
We've largely completed the Mourvedre, and are working on Syrah. The photo below shows the section we're pruning, at the western edge of the property in a Syrah block planted in 1997. Piles of newly-pruned canes lie on the ground between the rows. At right is Vineyard Manager David Maduena.
The pruning process takes only a few seconds for each vine, as we remove most of the canes and leave just six spurs, with two buds on each spur. A frame-by-frame comparison of David pruning one vine covers five photos but just about 10 seconds:
The sap in the vines is beginning to flow. This is a little scary, actually, since flowing sap means that budbreak isn't that far away. And between all the rain that we've received and the fact that we haven't had a hard freeze here since early January, there is the risk of a very early budbreak and the resulting longer-than-normal period where we have to be worried about frost. The shot below shows the sap dripping out of the end of a newly-pruned spur.
In addition to pruning the healthy vines, we take this opportunity to fill in gaps that have appeared in the vineyard blocks over the years. Below, David identifies a pink-tagged vine that did not sprout last spring.
As it is rarely successful to plant a new vine in a row with other established vines, we extend canes from healthy vines to fill in the spots where vines have died or been killed in past years. This can equally well be used where one arm of a cordon has died, which we have seen happen in both Mourvedre and Syrah over the years. Below, David ties a new cane over a dead arm and into an empty space where the next vine was killed by gophers. He then ties the cane to the wire in the open space. It will sprout this spring.
We will be pruning the vineyard, weather permitting, over the next month or more. The vine cuttings will go to NovaVine, where they'll be grafted into new grapevines for planting next year.