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Gotcha Sucker!

It’s spring time in the valley and the vines everywhere have erupted. The heat hasn’t yet begun to brown the grasses so the hills are rolling shades of green. In every vineyard an important job is being done now that the vines have sprouted shoots. There are many different trellising techniques and I’ve talked about a few of them employed in the area in this post, as well as different philosophies of how to best manage vines. All these different systems share the same goal, however, which is to channel as much of the vine’s energy and nutrients as possible to the development of the fruit that we use to make into wine. The winegrower’s  job is to coax the vine into only producing structures that directly assist in helping form intensely flavored, delicious grapes – everything else the vine tries to produce should be removed.

Deerfield’s vineyards use the double cordon training system that is commonly employed in California. In this system the vertical vine is split into two horizontally trained arms called “cordons”. Each cordon is then pruned every year so that it has four growth nodes called “spurs”. The vine is trimmed back to this state every year and these parts lignify (become wooden) and grow thicker with each passing year. Every year new shoots called “canes” sprout from the spurs and it is these green shoots that bear the fruit. Each cane is supposed to bear only one or two bunches of grapes.

No matter how your vines are trained they will always sprout some shoots in the wrong places. If left unchecked these shoots will suck up valuable resources and may even try to produce some unproductive grapes of their own. These “suckers” need to be removed as soon as possible, before the vine starts producing the buds that will become the clusters of grapes. Vineyard crews spend much of spring visiting each vine and making sure it’s behaving properly by snapping off extra shoots or sometimes shoots that just aren’t where they’re supposed to be. At the end of the day, for vineyards using the double cordon system, each vine should have just 16 new canes growing. It’s a much easier job then pruning in the winter because the young shoots can just be snapped off easily by hand, as opposed to when they become partially lignified and need to be clipped with powerful shears.

I’ve been paying close attention to one vine in particular this year, watching its growth and documenting it. I take great pleasure in watching it progress a little more each day. The rate of growth is truly fantastic. Yesterday the buds that would become grape clusters were barely perceivable and today they’ve burst into the tiny calyptra that will blossom into the flowers. The shoots grow almost an inch daily! Of course the real excitement begins when the grapes start to ripen…



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