Sunday, December 1, 2013

Cold vine pruning weather has arrived.


    The really, really cold weather has arrived…in all its glory.  yippee!! The photo below was taken in the summer...not in the freezing December weather we have now.

          So the first thing we did was fire up the recently added wood furnace that heats the water for the radiators. The house has legitimate heat for the first time in…well since it was built …a hundred and twenty some odd years ago.
         The second thing I did was trudge out of the sauna like environment of the house and headed north to frozen adventure…vine pruning. The vines had eased themselves into dormancy…me not so much. I love the process so much that I thought I would post a how to prune vines.
         Not many people will do this in their lifetime…so why not experience it vicariously through this blog.  I have always gotten my nose out of joint whenever I read some jerk ass reviewing some bottle of wine. It’s like the “Emperor’s new clothes.” Wine is not some special elixir that only toffee nosed snobs can truly appreciate. That is such bullshit! Wine is a great equalizer…you don’t need a degree…you don’t need excessive finances….you don’t need some custom built wine tasting room…or even one of those overpriced glass door wine refrigerators.
         All you need is a glass…and a church key…or what most people would call a corkscrew.   The secret to wine is this…buy a bottle of say…ten dollar wine. Go to a Bevmo…Trader Joe’s…a large grocery store where there is a huge selection.
         Try it out…pour a glass…relax. Nibble on different snacky things …cheese... crackers with spread, sliced fruit. Relax…  
         If you enjoy it …guess what….you’re part of the club. No fee’s, no Mercedes required, just a glass. You don’t need to write 50 word sentences describing the “florally jasmine tinted aroma mixed with colored pencil shavings that were passed through an Amazonian rainforest, and yet the color resembles the red found in a salmons blood swirl after the spawning during the second week of September, served in the 20 ounce snifting goblet that had been cooled to 57 degrees and imparted the mildest hint of….fucking Palmolive dishwashing soap”.
         Give me a break.  
          The first time I pruned vines I was mortified….what if I do it wrong and cripple all these innocent plants. The French guy tutoring me said, “Henri’, cut as I show you…and don’t worry…next summer you will have grapes…there won’t be asparagus growing from the vines.” I smiled, he had erased this great expectation I was harboring if awe of the vines. So anyway below is the process for pruning vines. Ideally you should be sitting in your refrigerator reading this to impart the feeling of numbness your hands should have.

        First address the customer. This is what our subject looks like…don’t judge.

        “Hello….my name is Henri…I will be pruning your vines today...darling your tendrils are looking so dry…you are using conditioner no? I am thinking you are wanting it short for the winter look?”

         The main thing that pruning accomplishes is choosing the two shoots that will carry next year’s crop. There will also be two smaller reserve shoots…should something happen to the main two shoots. Pruning tames the vines so to speak…otherwise there would be an anarchy of shoots multiplying each year…like Medusa on speed. We certainly don’t want that. 
          What I do is select the two shoots that are placed on the vine stock in the most optimum location. Two that will allow me to attach them to the wire trellis structure that supports the vines during the growing season. They should be low on the stock so that they will allow next year’s vines plenty of trellis to hang on. Otherwise each year it would start a little higher and after five years the plant would be really tall with the grape shoots at the top of the six foot high trellis system. Also I was taught you ideally want the shoots that are starting from under last year’s larger branch. In my mind I imagine the flow of nutriments going in the least obstructed path to the leaves and grapes. Odd maybe but it helps me visualize the process of growth for the little darlings. 

          After pruning the unneeded shoots it looks like this. I have kept all four shoots long. I do this because if one of the shoots has a weak connection to the stock head I will need to use my second choice for the next year’s crop. (or runner) Meanwhile all the shoots I cut off, I throw into a pile for collection and burning later.

         Here is a close up of the pruned vine. In this case all four shoots for next year are located on the underside of last year’s stock. Not always the case. As this is my third year pruning, I find myself correcting the first two years occasional mistakes. Hey it’s all about experience. It’s also like enjoying wine, as you sample more and more, you develop a taste for different aspects of the different wines. And you don’t need to read some puffed windbag pontificating about his/her special talents in describing the complexities of this most noble….blah,blah,blah. (I admit a perverse pleasure in reading the articles if only to count how many words in a sentence they use…my record find to date 54 words in one sentence.) There were 30 words in the parenthesis…gotta work on it.

          This is a photo of the first row being pruned and the five rows behind are still waiting. Our subject is in the lower left. You can make out a small pile of trimmings between the first and second row in the upper right corner. You can see I’ve chosen the lower two shoots for next year’s runners, and the upper two are the reserves.

         Cheers Hank.