Pruning and training in the vineyard is the consuming work during the spring and early summer of the year. With 20 acres of grapes, there is plenty of work for everyone! First, the dead wood must be cut out. Because of the wind here in west Texas, I have not taken any pictures of pruning.
Now, we are training the varieties from the 2009 planting. If the vine has gone dormant and weathered the winter well, it is just a matter of cleaning up the new buds. This is done by popping or cutting off the new buds so all of the energy for growth is directed toward upward growth. The first priority is to get the vine up to the cordon wire. Then, the growth is directed laterally in two arms going in opposite directions.
In the picture below, you can see a vine which was planted last spring (2009). It was trained last year. If left unattended, a grape vine will make a bush. To train a grape vine, the most vigorous and well oriented or straightest sprig is selected and taped to the bamboo. A 4 ft piece of bamboo supports the upward growth until it is tall enough to reach the horizontal wire or cordon. The vine pictured below had not made it to the cordon wire before winter came.
Now you can see the same plant pruned. The vine is up to the cordon wire with one arm which is taped to the south. Taping the first arm toward the south is done for a couple of reasons: it makes the vineyard uniform and also the strongest arm is facing into the wind – our winds here in west Texas are predominately from the south/southwest.
Here you can see a vine being taped:
We use a tape gun which uses green tape and staples. The tape can be pulled so that loose loops are made so as not to inhibit the growth, yet tight enough so as to hold the vine. If the loop is taped too tightly, the tape will girdle the vine and cause death.
Last week we completed the initial training of 5 acres of Aglianico and 5 acres of Montepulciano which we planted in 2009. An additional 5 acres of Roussanne, also planted in 2009, were hurt by late spring freezes. We will begin training them next week. This week we are going back through the Montepulciano re-taping the new growth.
Needless to say, a lot of hours and a lot of sunscreen are going into our family vineyard!