While everyone else is just beginning to awaken from their winter slumber, we’ve been hard at it getting ready for the new year, literally. Lodi vineyards are in full swing and you can easily begin to see the difference, particularly when one vineyard is pruned and the one next door, isn’t. Each year, pruning crews must come through and remove the previous year’s fruiting canes or spurs.
Dormant pruning is a critical component of the grape production cycle, protecting the vines’ health and ensuring a good crop. Grape growers generally prune their vines with the intent to achieve a balance between fruit production and adequate shoot growth. Too many shoots, and you can wind up with a crowded canopy, providing too much shade and/or too many grapes, making it difficult for the grapes to ripen in time for harvest. Too few, and you wind up with little or no fruit, lowering the yield and quality.
Because the best fruit is only produced on new shoots, healthy new canes must be “pushed” by the vine every year, and this means that growers must prune annually. Depending upon the variety of grape and the winegrowing region, growers often employ a pruning formula, which can vary based upon the individual vineyard. Believe it or not, there can be significant variances in soil type, temperature and watering conditions, even between vineyards that sit adjacent to one another.
Freshly cut canes litter the ground underneath these newly pruned vines. This time of year, vines are especially susceptible to infection as water and sap drips from the open wounds in the wood.
Beginning in January and running through the end of February, California vineyards are filled with the sounds of hand tools lopping off old and dead spurs. Music carries through the fog in the early morning and conversations blend as the morning sun warms the air and the day progresses. Sleeping vineyards don a manicured look as last year’s canes are shed, and the vines are readied for a new growing season.
If you drive through the valley, you’ll see countless men and women working in the vineyards, making their way up and down the rows, skillful caretakers pruning each vine. It’s the official first step towards our ultimate goal, a bountiful harvest, and it’s exciting to watch, knowing that we’ve begun yet another season.
As February approaches, growers watch the weather, monitor their fields and push to get their vineyards pruned. In the meantime, if you have the opportunity, take a drive in and around the area. Slow down and notice the activity in the local vineyards. There’s a unique life force that drives all of agriculture and here in Lodi, we’re fortunate to be a part of that energy.