Today is the solstice, and the official start of Winter. No rest for Wine Country! Every year, it’s only a short break between harvest and Winter pruning, an integral part of year-round vineyard management that ultimately affects the quality of the finished wines. Our Pinot Noir vines have shed their leaves to enter their dormant state for the season, waiting out the darker days until the sun begins rising earlier in the morning again to signal the start of Spring.
So far, we’ve been blessed with almost 25 inches of rain, with hopes for 10 more throughout the winter. In between much welcomed rainstorms, our vineyard crew has already begun work at both Hallberg and Pinot Hill. With the leaves gone, the vines’ canopies have shrunk to just bare cane shoots. This is the perfect time to go through and trim out the old wood, when the sleeping vines won’t mind the loss so much.
Some areas of the vineyard are especially vigorous, and this helps us to eventually produce the highest quality grapes possible. The team will spend the next few months completing the task of cutting away the previous season’s canes (on our Guyot trained vines) and spurs (on our Cordon trained vines) by hand.
Cane pruning (Guyot) is commonly used in cooler climate growing regions, including Burgundy, Sonoma, and Oregon. The woody, brown part of the vine is limited to just the trunk, making the vine less vulnerable to frost. This method requires a lot of skill on the part of our vineyard crew because it requires manually cutting back nearly all the vine’s growth from the past year and correctly selecting buds (future canes, come the growing season) that will produce the next year’s fruit.
Spur pruning (Cordon) is common to see in warmer climate growing regions, including California, Washington, and Spain. Some of the areas in our vineyards happen to catch more sun and less fog than others, making the protection against frost that the Guyot method offers less necessary. Spurs are the stub of a cane that contains 1 to 3 buds, growing from an arm (or arms) of the vine; more than just the trunk of the vine is allowed to establish itself long enough to be woody and hard. There are many different styles of spur pruning, but because we aim to produce fine wine we aim for relatively low fruit productions.
You could say that winter pruning is setting up for our New Year’s Resolutions for both our vineyards and our wines. In short, winter pruning helps us achieve the exact amount of growth we’re looking for in the new year, setting us up to create another great vintage in 2022.