Journal | February 19, 2017
Pruning is a winegrower’s favorite job. Especially on warm, sunny days. A small vineyardist has an intimate relationship with each vineyard block and in some ways, with each vine. Right now I am pruning the Hardscrabble Chardonnay I planted in 1985. I don’t let anyone else prune these vines because of our history. We’ve been through a lot together.
While to the casual onlooker, pruning seems like routine, assembly line work. But to the pruner it is an exciting adventure, as every vine is a sculpture. Each block, variety, and clone requires a different approach. An individual vine is quickly inspected. We can see last year’s performance by evaluating the amount of growth that the vine put out the previous growing season. If last year’s canes were small, and the vine struggled to fill the trellis space allotted to it, we prune ‘short’, meaning leave less buds, and therefor potential crop for the coming growing season. This is called balanced pruning. There are formulas for this: one weighs the canes of a single vine then adjusts their pruning cuts. But all experienced pruners get an eye for it and it comes naturally.
Pruning for balance is most important. A close second is form. The structural integrity of the vine contributes to it’s longevity. We are looking for a certain degree of uniformity. Most of Hardscrabble’s vines are pruned in a style called double Guyot. Guyot was a frenchman who developed the system when trellis wires started appearing 100+ years ago. Double refers to two canes per vine. This year we are making some changes in our pruning technique. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to meet with a ‘radical’ pruning expert from Italy who has influenced my thinking. More on this later.