Monday, January 11, 2010

Pruning at Chaine d'Or and Double Days

Saturday morning we lounged in bed until about 9 AM reading the paper and drinking coffee. We decided to go easy on the mornings this weekend and not get too worn out with pruning. We made it to Chaine d' Or by 10 AM though to start pruning.

Every day in the vineyard at Chaine d'Or starts with greeting the puppies! Ghillie is bigger than Sofie now and spent both days by our side out in the vineyard. She never tires of fetching the ball when I throw it. Sofie will go and hide the ball now to get a rest after about 15 minutes.

We worked down the hill each time, but there are still lots of trips back up. By then end of two days your legs will be sore. We had cloud cover on Saturday and a little on Sunday. The temperatures were not bad though and we never got too cold.

The main reason just Stefania and I went out was that a large number of Cabernet Sauvignon vines need retraining. It's something I have to do myself. Each plant that needs retraining first has to have new canes selected, then pulled down and debudded. I also have to saw off the old canes and remove any excess shoots.

It's a slow process and means I have to do about 300 squats each day. If we have a full crew in the vineyard they will prune about 75% of the plants before I can get to them to retrain. Over the past two years we've gotten about 50% of the plants retrained, but this year I was hoping to get us up around 90% total retrained.

This is a plant with new canes pulled down and the retraining started.

This is the old canes I removed. I got my size 14 boot in the picture to give some scale to the size. It takes a fair amount of time to saw through the old vine and remove it from the wire. To do a retraining like this takes 8-10 minutes per plant. That compares to about 45 seconds to prune a regular plant.

Here is one of the owl boxes we installed. Still no sign of an owl, but we're hopeful. They usually move into new homes in January and February. We had a good assortment of birds in the vineyard including Mountain Bluebirds.

We left Saturday about 3PM. We headed home, got cleaned up and headed to a friends commitment party. This is what Stefania calls a 'Double Day'. Two full days of activity pushed into one. The venue was the old Paul Masson / Martin Ray Mountain Winery. They are replanting the old vineyard.

The ceremony was held up in Napa during the week, but our friends had the party Saturday evening closer to home. The top level of the old winery is set up for events now. This used to be the fermentation room. We had a great time and even got some dancing in even with our tired legs.

The next day we worked about 6 hours. I spent about 30 minutes in the winery getting the batteries on the forklift recharged and then joined Stef for more pruning.

Below you can see some of the progress we've made. This was also a very good example of the high spurs I've talked about at Chaine d'Or. When we took over in 2007 all the Chardonnay plants had spurs this high. You can see it's well up into the first set of wires.

Over the past three seasons we've worked to lower the spurs. It's not an easy process. We have to prune the plant as normal and hope for a shoot lower on the plant. When that shoot comes out, we have to make sure to leave it during green pruning, then come back the next season and remove the old spur.

You can see in this picture the job is almost done. About 95% of the spurs are now lowered onto the fruiting wire and out of the first set of catch wires. It also gives a great perspective on how high the spurs were compared to were we are now.

Stefania is back out in the vineyard today and Jerry is joining her to help.

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