Grapevine pruning: the hard work of winter in wine country

by on March 20, 2013

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Winter. It’s the season for rejuvenation, not just for people but for plants as well. In wine country, winter is the time when vineyards sleep and recharge, waiting for the long, cold nights to get shorter and shorter. And the sun to rise earlier and earlier–a sign that spring is near. To celebrate the first day of spring, we thought we’d share a behind-the-scenes look at the painstaking work that’s been taking place in our vineyards all winter–grapevine pruning.

Pruning grapevines is the longest and most laborious task winegrowers endure each year. Vines go into dormancy in November or December–losing the last of their leaves and leaving only bare cane shoots in their canopies–which is the ideal time for the vines to be pruned of their old wood. Vineyard teams spent up to four months of the winter season hand-cutting the vine’s canes from the previous growing season with the goal of leaving the precise number of buds to create a balanced crop once the vine awakens from its winter dormancy and the dormant buds push. We call the growth of new buds “budbreak,” and it usually occurs right around the beginning of spring. Due to the drier, warmer weather in February, buds started to push in our Russian River Valley Chardonnay vineyards a few weeks ago.

In this educational video, fifth-generation Alexander Valley farmer Bret Munselle, one of Jordan’s key grapegrowers, discusses vineyard pruning during the winter and the challenges that arise. Just like winemaking, grapevine pruning is both a science and an art.