Winter Pruning: Guiding the Vine for the Growing Season Ahead

Preparing the vines for the growing season is hard work, but it’s the year’s first critical step toward healthy fruit, and ultimately beautiful wines. Pruning is the practice of removing the previous season’s vine growth.

The overall goal of winter pruning is to prepare the vines for the upcoming growing season. Removing the canes helps to construct the location and development of the canopy. A properly constructed and open canopy has great influence on fruit quantity and quality. It generally takes our vineyard crew several days to complete each individual vineyard, but it’s one of the most important vineyard operations of the year and is well worth the effort.

Pruning Chardonnay vines at our Lewis Vineyard in Carneros

The timing of winter pruning is crucial as it must occur when our vines are dormant. Pruning too early can disrupt nutrient transfer within the vine while pruning too late can possibly lead to a delayed bud break. We typically prune in February, adjusting for any rainy weather that may come our way.

Cane removal at our Winston Hill Vineyard in Rutherford

METHOD

With the cane pruning method, the optimal canes from the previous season’s growth are chosen to be the new fruiting canes, and the other canes are removed. Our vineyard crew meticulously searches for healthy canes that will promote ideal fruit orientation with open clusters, even sunshine exposure, and airflow.

Cane pruning removes buds, that would otherwise become new shoots and bear fruit the following season. By removing buds, growth is concentrated into the remaining buds, and eventually, canopy and fruit development. It therefore helps achieve vine balance and desired yield.

Tying selected canes to trellis to prepare for new growth at Winston Hill

Winter is perceived as our slow month in the vineyard, but it is certainly not void of activity. With 380 planted acres of vines, winter pruning is not a small task for us. It is time and labor intensive for our crew, requiring precision and skill. Winter pruning is also often coupled with other vineyard practices such as post replacement, cane tying, and tilling the soil. The fun never stops! Now we eagerly await bud break, signaling the start of a new growth cycle.  

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