Come rain or come shine

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It’s been quite a week! I’ve been working with Martinelli Winery in the vineyards in and around Windsor, California which is in Sonoma County. The weather has been crazy. Each day there has been countless changes between jacket drenching rain and blistering heat. Rain would come on for 20 minutes and then the heat would kick in. All in all, the work is interesting and the views in the vineyards make it all well worth the effort.

We’ve (a crew of 6) been going through the vineyards across the street from the Martinelli Winery and the Frei Road vineyard in Graton 10 minutes away. Each day we train the vines, pull excess vine trunk growth, raise metal wires to support the new shoot growth, tape up low hanging shoots to the metal wires for support and do pretty much anything that needs to be done in the vineyards.

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The photo below gives you an idea of the type of pruning system we are working with currently.

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With this setup, there is an irrigation system that uses the black rubber tubes to deliver water roughly 3-4 inches to the side of the vine base. The vine system underground fans out. The water is better used having it away from the base. Also, this allows the vine to search out the water. The wires provide a skeletal system for the vines to hold onto and they train the new shoots into the desired position The system above is known as cane-pruned. The vines are spaced 4 feet by 5 feet apart (much more space than what is the norm in Burgundy). There are metal poles that are roughly 7 feet tall. There are 4 vines in between each and every pole.

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We each take a row and walk the row, each one containing over 200 vines. We raise the wire above the fruit wire to provide support to the recently grown pliable tissue of the canes. We detangle the canes to ensure air movement is possible. Without this steps the shoots grow into each other creating potential for possible excess moisture to be trapped in the forming grape clusters and new tissue which yields rot, mildew and bug damage. As the canes grow, the older tissue thickens, gets stronger and relies less on the support of the wires. Also, shoots often push out below the lowest wire where the cordon is trained in a horizontal position. This is where the shoots stand upwards from engaging the training wires. These random shoots are without support and often hang out in between the vines. At this stage, we can simply tape them up to the lowest wire line for support and light training.

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Next thing is to ensure no clusters are too close to the wires, and make sure all the shoots are inside the parallel training wires. If they are outside, there is no telling which way they would grow. As the clusters grow they may get caught or tangles in the wire. Which is not good, right. So, we make sure they have a bunch of room. Sounds simple. It is. But, doing around 800-1000 a day takes a bit of doing.

I have to admit, more times than I care to admit I snapped the tops off of some shoots trying to lightly bend them into the middle of the training wires. Once was right in front of George Martinelli, our vineyard manager. Had to make up for that with being much more gentle.

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So, while we are out there, the rows in between the vines are terribly muddy. You have either rain or too much sun. But, it’s incredibly beautiful. The people I am in the vineyards with are great people. Most of them are from Mexico,only speaking Spanish (I can keep up just fine). Sure, it’s work alright. Yet, time sure seems to fly by. Another row, another wire tug, another….’snap’!

Well, there’s more praciticing yet to come………

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