Although it’s balmy here compared to the low temperatures on the East Coast and in the Midwest, it’s still chilly at night. This week we’re looking at nightly temperatures in the mid 40′s, but we’ve had our share of icy mornings. Whilst the vines sleep, the vineyard is still bustling with the activities of winter.
The pruning of heartier varieties: Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Syrah, takes place at this time of year. They get first dibs with the pruning shears because they are less sensitive to fluctuations in the weather at time of flowering here. These varieties tend to deliver a balanced crop more consistently. In contrast to these reliable grapes, our capricious French beauty, Merlot, and our impetuous Italian, Sangiovese, are more likely to either produce big crops or barely deliver. Pruning is delayed for these and other Bordeaux varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon to avoid exposure to inclement weather during flowering. Pruning may occur as late as March for these more vulnerable globes.
Different varieties are subject to different pruning techniques, some of which have existed for millennia. For example, the Sauvignon Blanc blocks are cane-pruned, followed by cane tying…all by hand. To observe the vineyard crew tying canes, watch the video below. Some left-over canes can be used as starts for self-rooting grapes. Select canes are properly cared for, then shipped off to other vineyards for storage and planting.
Alternatively, some varieties, such as Cabernet Franc, are spur-pruned and cordon trained. Size of grape clusters, position in the vineyard, irrigation and nutrition of the vines, target yield, and wind vulnerability are some of the contributing factors to the selection of pruning technique. It may be winter, and the vines might be dormant, but vineyard workers are awake and bustling with winter activities in preparation for the 2014 vintage.