Our vineyard year is starting to settle into its very familiar pattern. The vines are almost all shoot-thinned. For some of the vines, this isn't required. But for most vinifera, we like to go through and do the second crop adjustment at this time by eliminating the extra shoots found on some vines.
Our vineyard is trained to the VSP trellis sysem (stands for Vertical Shoot Position). During the dormant period for the vines (winter) we take two canes from the previous year's growth and (removing all other canes) attach these to the fruiting wire in opposite directions. From each node on the canes, a shoot bursts forth the following spring. Sometimes the nodes (buds) are not fruitful (water shoots) and other times they're completely dead. Once in a while they throw out two canes per bud.
We usually make a few passes through the vineyard (especially in the Chardonnay) to make sure we have about one shoot for every three inches. This will makes for more even ripening and also a more open canopy in the summer (leading to less disease pressure.)
Never let anyone tell you that that wine is a natural product. It is something that is shaped from the very beginning. We start in the winter bending the vine to our will, and in the winery we shape the wine to the best of our abilities. Without human involvement, there wouldn't even be vinegar.
That said, we try to respect what Mother Nature gives us every year. We can't make good wine from bad grapes, and you can't make Cabernet Sauvignon from Cabernet Franc. But without us, wine would not happen, and that's not natural.