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Wednesday, March 2, 2011


There is only minor debate as to when the new season begins. Some vintners believe it is when the last grapes make it to crush during the harvest season. Others think it falls somewhere between the time dormant pruning occurs and bud break. Time wise there is a big time difference here. Harvest is in September or October, while bud break has been as close to April 1st as the last frost permits. This is almost 6 months of variance. For me it is somewhere in the middle, maybe more like the calendar with January being the start. When the harvest concludes there still is some warm weather to work within, and here is when you not only shut the operation down, but there are the many small projects that took the back seat relative to other priorities when the grapes were the king. These projects relate to "last year's" season, though obviously they need to be done prior to next season. In January however there are all the things that need to get done before the grapevines require absolute attention. And to know that the new season has started is to know that there is a daily juggling of time prior to the anticipated April 1st "blast off" doing the needed jobs within the weather pattern of warm days and still brutally cold days. Last week was my kick-off for the 2011 year. The string of warm days in a row justified a trip to the vineyard. The number one priority was to do the first round of rough pruning on the Block 1 grapes. Generally grapevines require 2 dormant prunings, doing the first pass right helps tremendously on the effort required for the second. During the first pass the idea is to get the vine to have the basic shape you want. This means getting rid of everything that doesn't contribute to the training method you have chosen. It involves choosing the main canes, trimming off the suckers, possibly shortening some growth that turned out to be overly aggressive in the previous season. If the vines were neglected this could mean alot of work, as much as 8 to 10 minutes devoted to pruning a single vine, which was the case for many of our Nortons. Diane and I walked away feeling fairly successful in our pruning efforts. Nearly all of the grapevines were pruned, leaving only a couple of rows of Seyval Blanc that had been late season pruned to go over again for new growth. And as if we didn't have enough to do, we gathered a bunch of prunings in order to make grapevine wreaths when Diane gets in the mood. The second pruning occurs just prior to bud break, which as mentioned has come on or around April 1st. This is where you decide how many buds you want to leave , with their appropriate spacing, depending on how vigorous the plant had been the previous season. This technically should include weighing off the clippings from the 1st pruning and putting this weight through a calculation specifically assigned to the type of grape you have. Some types can handle a greater fruit load than others. I'll go over the particulars in my next entry. I've mentioned in previous blogs how Diane makes an effort to pull me from the fields to do a little socializing while in the area. She found the perfect excuse this time around by getting us to go to the Virginia Vineyard Association's Wine Expo held in Richmond this past weekend. Held at the convention center, it showcased many of Virginia's 190 wineries by providing tastings of the many wines grown and produced in the Commonwealth. Having tasted plenty of wine, I can honestly say they would hold up well when compared to Napa or Sonoma. Also at the convention the Governor's Cup was awarded to Virginia's top red wine for 2011. It was a Meritage blend from a small microwinery.....quite good I might add.

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