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March 5, 2006

Vineyard Vacation Over???

Good grief has it been six weeks already??? Our brief vineyard vacation ended Saturday as I headed out to get started on pruning. Got into the vineyard about 9:30, had a little coffee to get warmed up and got to it.

It's sort of a "process of elimination" to determine how to prune each vine. The optimal configuration is to have two trunks grow nice and straight up to the cordon wire at 42" then head laterally in each direction for at least 18" because they get cut back to 18". So you examine the ends of the vine and you can tell if it is live wood or dead wood i.e. when you cut it with your pruners you'll have live green wood, or crunchy dead wood. Thus the goal is to have live green wood 18" from center to form the cordons. The reason for cutting back to 18" (rather than 30" which would be halfway to the next vine thus they would "meet in the middle") is to prevent apical dominance, which basically means that a vine will try to push shoots out from it tips. Thus if the cordons on a young vine are too long, it will only push new shoots towards the ends and you can end up with a gap in the canopy which is tough to fix later.

BUT, if the vine does not have two canes running laterally on the cordon wire, then you prune back to the center stake and leave three buds there, which will give lateral shoots to make the cordons next year.

BUT if no cane reached the cordon wire, then you prune the whole thing down to 3 buds and start over next year. Although this sounds drastic, the vine will really grow quickly from the 3 buds since it has a much more developed root system than it did upon planting, thus the second-year 3-bud vine will really grow quickly.

And of course there are combinations of all of the above e.g. one cane with 18" of cordon and another cane with 3 buds at the ground. Or one cane trimmed to 3 buds right at the cordon wire and another with 3 buds on the ground. A few other combos too but you get the idea.

One cane with 18" cordon and another cane cut back to 3 buds

Shannon joined me for a little while in the afternoon while her mom volunteered to come over and watch Tristan. Here she is, with her faithful companion Tamra. View image

Shannon headed home and I finished up another row. Then I went back out today for a couple hours to knock out a couple more rows. All in all we got one whole acre of viognier pruned in about 11 hours which comes in at about 50 minutes per row (12 rows x 80 vines/row) factoring in a couple breaks. I believe the cabernet franc will take longer since the vines are much more developed than the viogner, being a more vigorous vine. Thus there will be a lot less vines getting trimmed down to the three-bud ground level. I estimate about 75% of the viognier had to get taken down, and I forecast only 20% of the cab franc will get cut back that much. Still, I think we'll be able to finish pruning next weekend which would be great because we have lots of other things to do!

Posted by Stephen at March 5, 2006 8:37 PM