IN THE VINEYARD - WINTER UPDATE: PRUNING
Hi all – it’s vineyard update time! As we are in the thick of winter, our vineyard crew’s main focus is getting the vines prepped for this next growing season. So, this means pruning!
When we prune what we are doing is cutting back the “dead” wood on any part of the vine to both keep the plant healthy as well as make room for new growth. We do this when the vines are dormant to maintain the lowest amount of stress possible on each plant.
See the videos below, which explain a bit more about our practices of pre-pruning and pruning.
To save time when it comes to pruning we first come through the vineyard with a tractor with a pre-pruner attachment which leaves the bottom 24” to precision prune. (See how it’s done in the video below). As the tractor driver drives down the rows, the spinning blades on a side cut the upper portion of the dormant vines. This saves us about 50% of our pruning time, allowing us to get all the vineyards pruned in time by hand before spring bud break.
At Balletto Vineyards, we are 100% estate vineyards. This means we own and control everything that happens in the vineyards. With about 700 acres under vine (650 when the above video was made) our vineyard crew of 25 to 30 people start pruning in December and end about three months later – either the end of February or beginning of March depending on how much rain we receive. We are strategic in the order we prune our vineyards, making sure the vineyards and varietals are pruned in the order in which bud break starts. Pruning is the most vital step during the winter – what is considered off-season, is one of the most critical times in the vineyards. This time is used to cut back all the old growth from the previous year’s growing season so that you can get fresh growth for the upcoming season. What looks like a big tangle of dead sticks is cut back to 2 buds. (See video below how this is done). “Those two buds will then sprout up and make the shoots for next year and we are just making space so that we can have fresh new growth. It is really important that the sunlight gets onto these buds early. We are really looking to open it (the future canopy) up and have lots of light, lots of fruitfulness…” says winemaker Anthony Beckman. This is a very labor intensive and important part of farming a vineyard. There are between 1,000 and 1,300 vines per acre and each vine requires several cuts to get down to two buds, so just imagine how long that takes to do a whole vineyard! “Every cut is a judgment call – you’re making a call about where do I need to cut to get the most sunlight, the most airflow, to keep the strongest shoot there so that we get the strongest plant growth possible,” says Anthony Beckman.
Doesn't it make pruning the roses in the backyard seem not such a chore now?!