Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Winter Pruning and Clean Up

Winter time seems to be the grapes equivalent of my Saturday morning. After a full summer and fall "workweek", they just want to sleep in, lounge around the vineyard in their PJs and not really do much. But that is pretty much where the metaphor ends.

We have just come out of a particularly bad set of weather. Lots of rain, high winds and all in all, some bummer dreary climates. I took advantage of a sliver of a warmer afternoons this weekend and spent some quality time with my vines.

The wind had wrestled some of the first year cordons free from their ties and the young wood was dangling. No damage, they are all still fairly immature and supple, so the wood where the cordon meets the trunk of the vine is pliable enough that there was no damage. I just gently lifted them back to the trellis and tied them up with fresh green twists.

I am not quite ready to dive into spur pruning yet, for two reasons.
One, the vines seem reluctant to slip completely into their winter dormancy (more on that later) and I am afraid that an aggressive pruning may encourage a burst of growth, which would be in danger of frost damage and then disease.
And two, I have never practiced the pruning techniques learned in my viticulture class on my own grapes yet.

Scary! So, I just gave a light pruning to remove the long growth that was being whipped around in the winds. I left an ample number of buds on each spur so that when I come back in a couple months. I have lots to work on my technique with. I'm sure I will do fine eventually. My vines and I will make it through this together.

Weather around here can be a bit schizophrenic; cold, then hot, then cold again. It's probably hard for a vine to figure out if it should be gowning or going dormant. One of the vines was a bit confused by the few sporadic days of warmth that we had since the colds days had come and thought it should start making fruit. I actually found a small cluster of new berries on one. Looked like they had been there a few weeks. With the rainy weather, I never went down and looked closely at the vines so I must have missed the blossoms. Silly vine. My vines are young, I am sure that we both will get through this early stage and figure out what we are doing.

I am thinking of calling around this week up to some of the wine country nurseries. I would like to get a few more vines. Some Petite Verdot. Probably too late to order them, but I think it would be fun to give my existing vines some young siblings. Especially now that I think I'm getting the hang of this.

Tim Beauchamp