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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Speeding up

We're in the vineyard stage known as pre-bloom when we start to get an idea of the size and number of grape clusters on our shoots. These two photos at show the incredible amount of growth that has happened on the same vine in a two-week period. From three-inch shoots on these Nortons to twenty and more. The growth is exaggerated this year because the Easter Freeze knockback of our primary buds has envigorated the vines, and they're coming back as if they have something to proove.

Things are staring to move extremely fast in the vineyard: shoot thinning and positioning are required to ensure that the vine is filling up the trellis properly and that the amount of fruit will be balanced with an adequate amount of green canopy without being too shaded. Grapes don't like shade. They also need air circulation. But they can also receive too much sun and become burned. The ongoing process of balancing fruit, leaves and shoots on the trellis is known as canopy management, and it is perhaps the most important viticultural practice in growing high-quality wine grapes. I grew grapes in the test vineyard for four years before I knew any of this stuff.

Our crop will be uneven this year, with a collection of primary, secondary and tertiary buds throwing off shoots carrying fruit that will ripen at different times. On a small vineyard, several hand-harvested passes will need to be made, but those who machine harvest all at once will have some choices to make.

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