Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Little about Pruning at Allegro

I wrote the following piece back in 2005, having just suffered through two really tough vintages.  Sometimes I like to go back and try to get back in my previous mindset to see how things have changed.  It's strange to read my confidence between the lines and at the same time a naivete.  I'm certain that ten years from now the things I write today will have the same perception...............

Old Cabernet vine about to be spur-pruned.

A Little about Pruning at Allegro

March was when John and Tim used to get started pruning their vines each year.  Actually, Tim used to start at the end of February, but John said he never really got much done.

The vineyard used to be roughly ten acres at the time, all spur-pruned.  Spur-pruning is the method in which two cordons (arms) are grown out on the fruiting wire and short canes (spurs) are left two to three buds long on each.  After years of this, you end up with rather large arms that wrap around the wires, leading to in-grown wires in the vines.  Certain fungal diseases like to hide out in those same cordons over winter, making for a larger inoculum for the next spring.

Spur-pruning is also easy to teach and is a pretty quick way to prune a vine.  Sometimes John brought in help.  He told me they hired some Jamaicans from the D.C. area for a few years who came up and flew through the vineyard in three weeks.  He was sure that there was some substance keeping them moving so quickly, and it wasn’t wine.  Another instance was the Vietnamese crew they had that he found one day spending the afternoon in the vineyard with a tea ceremony.

The brothers always had a lot of work to do, between getting the vineyard prepped for spring and getting all the wines in bottle.  John said he always had a goal of June 1st to get all the tanks emptied.  I felt guilty in 2002 that I didn’t even come close to that, but after I found an old bottling record book I realized he didn’t either.

We got an early start on the Chardonnay this year, due to some nicer days.  We finished a couple weeks ago with a nice lead on our schedule.  But with the last bits of bad weather that has been moving through here, I’ve noticed that our lead has shrunk.  We’re going to have to start pruning in the off-weather days soon.  The worst thing that can happen is to be late on your pruning.  It’s not only bad on the vines, it puts the rest of the spring out of whack. 

So we’ll start on the Riesling and the Cabernet soon.  It feels like Christmas Eve to me as a little boy.  The year is about to start, and I get to go out and unwrap what each of these vines is going to be for me this year.  2005 has to be a good year.  We’re due....

-Carl Helrich
March 9, 2005

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