All hands on deck! It may not seem so, but pruning is truly the official start of the next vintage. Starting this January, our vineyard crew took advantage of a few sunny days in between the El Niño rains to start pruning a parcel of Merlot at the Klein Ranch on Monte Bello in preparation for the 2016 vintage.
Why bother pruning you ask? Pruning the vines will shape the canopy for the coming vintage and helps control vigor. This is a key component to promoting the growth of quality grapes for the next vintage. As you can see, pruning can be an arduous task on the steep slopes of Monte Bello.
It’s literally a jungle out there for the crew! A team of 13 will race against the clock and Mother Nature to prune all of Monte Bello’s 140 acres under vine to ensure a successful bud break in the spring.
Ridge’s Pre-Industrial winemaking techniques start right in the vineyard, as shown on this century old Jimsomare Zinfandel. Every parcel of land, depending on the training system, may require a different approach to pruning. Here, pruning this spur down to its lower cane keeps the vine from growing too tall. The remaining cane is pruned to 2 buds to form a new spur which will produce 2 shoots for the 2016 vintage.
A Merlot vine, shown here, requires a different approach. Younger and higher yielding, it is spur pruned like the Zinfandel but trained to a VSP (Vertical Shoot Positioning) system with permanent bilateral cordons. Note the white paint from previous years’ cuttings – this is a technique that we use in the vineyard to shield fresh wounds from a wood disease infection called Eutypa. A fungal disease, Eutypa spores are spread/released by moisture. In the coming days these newly exposed pruning wounds will be covered as well, before the next rains.
Before and after, vineyard style. The growth from 2015 has been pruned from the vine in the foreground, while the vines in the background still show a full year’s growth.
Sustainability is a key component to Ridge’s farming ideology. Prunings from the vines are left in the vineyard, where they will be chopped up by a specialized flail-type mower. Chopped prunings will incorporate over time improving soil structure. Whole prunings left in the vineyard can harbor insect pests and diseases.
Viticulturist Kyle Theriot and his Black German Shepherd, Ruby. After a day of hard work it’s time to have some fun!