The Zen of Pruning

From John, January 28th, 2012

Pruning is the major endeavor occurring during winter in the vineyard.But it is important that one does not snip until one divines the sap to have flown below.  It generally requires several weeks of cold winter weather to complete the process of dormancy and until that happens, one waits, ruminating on what is to come.By the middle of January this year it felt like things were ready to go;  snow was on the ground, a cold north wind had been blowing for days and even the gophers were not advertising their whereabouts.So, hearty crew that we are, the four of us bundled up and ventured out into the first block of Pinot noir.

newly pruned vines

newly pruned vines

The goats were let out of their paddock and came to join us;  the geese waddled up to check out the activity;  dogs trotted up and down the rows undoubtedly hoping to find something dead to roll in and, finally, the sheriff (Guido the cat) arrived and sauntered down a row to give his approval of the whole affair.  At first pruning seems like a pretty radical undertaking:  virtually all of the previous year’s growth is severed and removed from the vine and trellis;  the only thing that remains is the main trunk and one or two canes jutting from the head of the vine.  But how one chooses the proper canes  is not always obvious and will set the tone for each vine’s contribution to the quality of next year’s wine.  For example the canes should ideally come off of opposite sides of the vine so that the vascular system is balanced when it comes to supplying nutrients to the emerging buds.  Internodes (the distance between buds) on each cane need to be the proper distance so that the new shoots are neither too cramped nor too far apart.  And the decision on what constitutes the perfect cane needs to be arrived at after only a brief moment of conjecture.  There are approximately 1500 vines per acre and 6 acres of vines at Clos Electrique.  That’s 9000 vines that have to be properly groomed by the end of February at which point each cane gets carefully wrapped and tied to the fruiting wire of the trellis.  In the course of pruning, one enters a personal space of introspection and when it tacks toward seeking the truth, well, one has arrived at the Zen of pruning.

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