by Kristin Lowe, Ph.D, President, Vine Balance Consulting, Co-Chair, NVG's Member Services Committee
Spring is my favorite time of year in the vineyard. Sure, my days start a bit earlier, and I know that there are long, hot work hours ahead once the season hits full swing. But those aren’t my primary concerns on these crisp mornings in the vineyards, as I check the progress of pruning, wade through thigh-high mustard, and look for early signs of bud break. Instead, my thoughts turn to the possibilities of a healthy, high quality grape crop, and renewed hope in the year ahead.
For better or for worse, vines have memories. They remember everything they have gone through since they were planted. Were they trained well early on, so that now the trunks are nice and straight? Were they irrigated properly in their youth so their root systems could become fully established? Were they pruned correctly to balance their growth potential and crop load? Vineyard folks know the importance of history when it comes to their vineyards, and that every suite of decisions we make today builds on those made in the past.
*Photo by Emma K. Morris
Napa Valley Grapegrowers (NVG) announces that bud break has begun in Napa Valley, marking the beginning of the winegrape growing season. “We’re seeing the first signs of bud swell on Pinot Noir in the Carneros AVA, with some buds pushing their first leaves this week” said Chris Hyde, General Manager at Hyde Vineyards and NVG member, “within the month, dependent on weather conditions, bud break will ramp up throughout our property.”
Bud break is close for vineyards north of Carneros, as well. “It’s a very exciting time in Napa Valley. While we’re seeing buds swell, we’re not quite to bud break,” said Justin Leigon, Viticulturist for Piña Vineyard Management, whose vineyards are located in the Oak Knoll District, Pope Valley, and Wooden Valley, to name a few, “the earlier varieties, like Sangiovese, are very close, and we’re about 3-4 weeks out for Cabernet Sauvignon.”
by Molly Moran Williams, NVG Industry & Community Relations Director
When thinking about vineyard work, most people will likely imagine the hustle of harvest; however, while harvest is exciting, it is merely the tail end of the work that goes into the full growing season. Pruning season requires highly-skilled hands and careful attention as it sets the stage for the growing season.
Pruning season marks the very beginning of the year in vineyard work, annually. Timing can differ by grape variety and is subject to weather patterns and winter rains. Pruning styles vary as well, from cane to spur pruning, and are supported by different training methods. Look closely at the vineyards as you drive along Highway 29, and you will see a range of farming practices being implemented to try and maximize quality, sustainability, and efficiency. In every vineyard, pruning sets the stage for success in the year to come.
Put simply, pruning requires incredible skill. Carefully pruned vines are sculpted by equally careful vineyard workers who employ years of experience and technical viticultural knowledge in each cut.
*Photo by Suzanne Becker Bronk
by Michael Silacci, Winemaker for Opus One & NVG President
On a crisp January morning, under clear blue skies, Alfredo Llamas walks up to a vine in a Napa Valley vineyard. He kicks the grape stake to see if it was broken, gives the vine a once over, and begins to prune it.
Once Alfredo has given the stake a gentle kick, the vine has his complete attention and focus. He evaluates the length and girth of the canes, judging the number of buds to leave at the position.
Strong canes require additional buds to compensate for excess vigor, and Alfredo will leave fewer buds on weak canes to strengthen the position. The excess wood will be removed, and precise cuts made to leave enough cane above the bud to protect the bud from drying out, but not so much that pests find a place to harbor.
Pruning is a time to reflect on the past, live in the present, and imagine what the future will bring. Less than a minute later, Alfredo will be kicking the next stake.
*Photo submitted by Opus One
by NVG Staff
Napa Valley sets the gold standard for farming. As an established agricultural preserve for over 50 years, the cherished, 30-mile stretch of land is cared for by dedicated grape growers who tend to their vines with careful consideration and innovation. Year-after-year, no matter the challenges, Napa Valley growers’ collective goal is to adapt, overcome, then produce high-quality winegrapes, and 2020 was no exception.
This year, Napa Valley growers faced more than the usual share of weather-related challenges, which means the 2020 growing season has been shaped and defined by the ways in which our community banded together—both to ensure the health and vitality of the workforce and to persevere through increasing climate challenges. Read the full NVG press release.
*Photo credit: Sarah Anne Risk