On the cutting edge…

From John, January 22nd, 2013

Pruning the vineyard is generally considered the least enviable of tasks.  Since it necessarily occurs in the winter when vines are dormant, pruning in Oregon is associated with cold, wet, muddy conditions.  There is not a glove invented that will keep your 10 digits warm throughout the day.

So it is no surprise that in many vineyards, pruning is generally delegated down the economic ladder to its lowest rungs.  And yet Teri and I with our higher degrees and Tom and Dan with accumulated expertise as sommeliers and in all things pertaining to the cellar happily don rain gear and muck boots and trudge out to the vineyard nearly every day this time of year.  Actually the word “happily” might be a tad too positive on many days, perhaps best replaced by “determined”!

Removing last year's main cane (photo by Jeremy Fenske)

Removing last year’s main cane (photo by Jeremy Fenske)

I think that pruning is one of the most important tasks that we accomplish each year in the vineyard:  it allows us to mechanically separate the weak vines from their stronger neighbors, pruning each according to its vitality.  Days and weeks out there with the vines allow a slow, methodical survey of the vigor of the vineyard, helping us to identify areas that might need additional compost or specific cover crops.  Specific clones will tell you this time of year whether they were pruned and trained correctly last year or whether different methods need to be tried this time around.

There is a wealth of information sitting out there if one takes the time to access it.  It is no lie that great wine is made in the vineyard and I noted early on that when I traveled to Burgundy to visit notable small domains, I was as likely to find “the man” out in the vineyard as in the cellar.

(And for a meditative analysis of pruning, please see last year’s post on “the zen of pruning”)

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