Sunday, January 18, 2009

Chaine d'Or Pruning

Yesterday we tackled our biggest pruning job the 22 year old Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon at Chaine d'Or. Last year this vineyard took us over 3 days to do. There were a lot of plants in the process of recovery from Eutypa that needed retraining. We were also converting everything over to our strict method of leaving two shoots on each spur and just 8-12 spurs per plant.

Here our crew is in the middle of the vineyard working on a section of Merlot. We started the day with Jerry, Estella, Ingrid, Amber, Wes, Stefania and I. Axle was there to play with the dogs, and just as Amber, Ingrid and Wes had to leave, Kathy and Millie showed up.

The sun was out, but it was cool, so we stayed covered up to avoid sunburn and stay warm. Jerry is working on a Cabernet vine here. You can see the limited number of shoots we keep on each plant. This increases ripeness and sun exposure and intensifies the fruit. This plant is very small and not typical of the vineyard. The vineyard has a very tough turn and most of the plants in the turn, like this one, have been hit by the tractor at one time or another and had to be restarted.
These plants are more typical of the gnarled old vines in the vineyard. This is a section of Cabernet after the crew has passed through. We also made an effort last year to lower the spurs as much as possible. After 20 years some of the spurs were into the first set of wires.

Now that we have the Eutypa out of the vineyard, we'll return to the practice of leaving the cuttings in the middle of the rows. We will then run the tractor over the cuttings with the mower attached and create a mulch. That will return the nutrients in the plants back to the soil. Last year we hauled out all the cuttings to avoid any Eutypa problems, but there were no infected plants at all last season, so we feel we now have it out of the vineyard.

As the sun dropped a little fog came out in the mountains and made for a great end to the afternoon. The crew whittled away to take care of personal errands and Stefania and I left Jerry and Estella at 4PM to finish up one last row. We had to get home to clean up for a 6PM dinner. We gave Jerry Sunday and Monday off. What took us over three days last year, took just one this year.

That's a great sign that we have the vineyard in the kind of shape we want it. It was easy to prune, with few corrections to make, no suckers to deal with, and no excess shoots. Just 8-12 spurs, 2 quick cuts per spur and on to the next plant. As I pruned I was pretty excited by the prospects for this season. So far the moon cycle and weather have been perfect. Our crew is fast, efficient, and really knows the vines. We are only two weeks into the year, but I'm feeling good about the shape we've got each vineyard in and the pruning we've done is setting us up for a good start.

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