2015 Sonoma County Pruning Championship
Every winter Sonoma County holds the Pruning Championship, the team from Emeritus boasts many past winners, and 2015 is no different! This year we honor Rosendo Avilia as the champion! We also claim one of the creators of the competition on our team - Emeritus Vineyards' own Kirk Lokka (Vineyard Manger) literally wrote the book and is the toughest judge in the competition.
The questions we hear a lot are "Why do you prune?" and "Why is it important?". We'll try to answer those questions for you here.
Pruning is probably the most important thing we do to cultivate our vines. Pruning is removing the growth from the previous year. Not pruning would more than triple the crop which would create dilute and low colored wines, lacking the intensity that we desire.
By pruning our vines back we focus the energy of the wine to a smaller amount of growth. Unpruned vines would put so much energy into growing new canes, leaves and the like that they wouldn't have the resources to ripen fruit to the level that we desire for winemaking.
When we prune we make decisions about how much fruit we want each vine to produce (this is known as the yield of the vineyard). The yield is one of the markers of a high quality Pinot Noir. We aim to get between 2.5-3 tons/acre on most of our vineyards, with some areas we aim for 1.75-2 tons/acre.
An unpruned vine would have a large mass of foliage, this mass would reduce sunlight onto the fruit and create excessive disease pressure due to poor circulation (diseases like mildew).
The decisions made while pruning are informed by experience, knowledge of the wines we create and more importantly the area of the vineyard. Kirk and Nicolas work together envisioning the finished wines before the vines start their annual growth cycle. They literally have to look two or more years into the future to make these decisions. This is how they can determine how many clusters we should grow on each vine. Pruning is the heaviest manipulation we make to the vines' growth, it's when we coax each vine to produce grapes in a certian way...then we let Mother Nature take over as the vines move into their annual growing season.
So you can see why we are so proud of our Pruning Champions, and why we want to have so many on our vineyard team. You can read more about the competition in this article from the Press Democrat - we highly recommend it!
The 2015 Winners! 1st Place Rosendo Avila from Emeritus Vineyards
Pruning at Hallberg Ranch
Judging at the 2015 Sonoma County Pruning Championship