Part of my winery duties is working in the vineyard. This time of year is when the grapes need to be pruned so they can produce the optimal quantity and quality of grapes used in our wine. I was introduced to vine pruning in February of 2016 when Mike outfitted me with pruning shears, twine, scissors, and garden gloves and led the way into the snow-packed rows of the vineyard. Bundled in my warmest jacket, I tied a pouch around my waist filled with the required tools, eager to learn my newest skill.
Pruning needs to be completed by the time the weather starts to warm and bud break occurs. Prune too late and delicate budding fruit can be easily knocked off with a misguided touch. In addition to learning the difference between a trunk and a cordon, I needed to recognize what a bud looked like before it ever produced a leafy indicator and then when to keep it or snip it off. Accuracy, experience and confidence had to guide the process and I had none of those attributes.
I followed alongside Mike as he evaluated each vine, making recommendations as carefully as a doctor does for a patient. By the end of the row I was pretty well convinced pruning was not going to be easy, fast, or without the possibility of an epic fail. Mike guided me through that first year with patience and knowledge. I followed the growth process through the season and saw the results in late summer, estimating what could be done better next time. Each year I made the connection of how a vine was pruned and the resulting quantity and quality of harvested grapes. I learned the value of balance between fruit and leaves and what percentage of each must be preserved. My vocabulary increased the ways I could identify the biology of the plant and how my technique could improve.
It’s now 2020, 4 years later and I’m still learning, but I think I kinda got the idea now. In fact, especially on sunny days when it’s nice to be outside, it’s quite enjoyable.
Mike Van Natta
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