When most people picture a vineyard, they picture lush, green vines holding clusters of ripe grapes ready to be harvested and turned into wine. However, once those grapes are picked and the weather turns cold, those vines quickly lose their leaves and turn from green and flexible to brown and stiff. This process, called lignification, helps the vines endure the cold winter temperatures and any potential frost. This process closes the year for the vine, and it goes dormant until next the spring.
Just because the vine is dormant that doesn’t mean we are. As the year is renewed in January, we begin our work in the vineyard with the first step in the vineyard calendar – pruning. The entire pruning process takes about 6 to 8 weeks and involves a few passes through the vineyard. To begin, there are several ways to prune a vine. We do what is called cane pruning, or guyot, for several reasons. This is the traditional pruning technique used in cooler climates famous for Pinot Noir; Burgundy, New Zealand, Oregon, and Sonoma. In cane pruning we go through and actually cut back all but about 5 of the canes from the last year.
Then, on the second pass, we remove all of last year’s growth except for 3 canes. We cut these canes back to about 3 feet long which leaves between 8 - 10 potential buds, giving us a desired yield of 2 tons per acre.
Finally, one last pass is made, and the selected canes are tied down to the guide wires. The third cane is reserved in case something happens to one of the other 2 canes before we tie them down. Once the 2 canes are tied, we simply remove extraneous cane.
We've done our part. Now it's time for the sun to wake up and pitch in.