Bee Informed With the Eco Terreno Blog
That’s a wrap folks – we’ve finished our winter pruning! Bud break is about a month away, give or take (depending on the varietal), and between the 300 sheep that visited for a month and our hardworking farm team methodically clipping the dormant vines, we are so ready to kick off the 2021 vintage!
Pruning is far from indiscriminate, requiring skill, speed, patience, foresight, and an intimate understanding of the ways in which vines grow once the buds arrive. An integral part of the grape growing process, pruning involves selective removal of up to 90% of the previous season’s vine growth. Timing is of the essence; too early may disrupt the transfer of nutrients from the woody part of the vines, and too late may delay bud break. We definitely don’t want that!
The main focus is on the vine’s canes – shoots that grow from the main trunk of the plant – containing the buds that will eventually bear fruit. The youngest, strongest canes less than a year in age will “make the cut” (pun intended). These canes are typically thicker, grow closer to the trunk, and are widely spaced, meaning they have the strength to hold heavy, full-grown grape clusters while allowing air to pass between neighboring canes, preventing excess moisture that can cause disease.
Another important part of pruning is controlling the future location and general development of the canopy. Proper canopy construction influences overall yield and health of the grapes, playing a heroic role in both capturing light energy and providing a shield from the scorching hot mid-day California sun in the warmer months. If too many buds are left, the canopy becomes overcrowded, resulting in excess shade and a high crop load which the vine won’t have enough energy to ripen. Yikes!
By reducing the amount of fruit-bearing buds, the growth is concentrated to the best canes, and that’s where the real magic happens.
Stay tuned for more blogs about the grape growing cycle throughout the season!
Bud break typically arrives shortly after spring begins in late-March, and we’re working hard to prepare for the start of the 2021 vintage. Until then, winter is still here, and our vines remain dormant for a bit longer.
Before we officially kick off the new season, the vineyard must be weeded, tilled, and fertilized. Rather than relying on toxic sprays, fuel-powered machinery, or synthetic fertilizer, we invite nearly 300 sheep to visit for a month to help us with the job! This symbiotic relationship is a win-win; the flock enjoys biodynamic and organic feed, allowing us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, soil impaction, and labor costs - freeing our farm and vineyard staff to focus on pruning and preparing for the new growing season. Not to mention, we get to watch these sweet wooly creatures savor free reign of the vineyard, including the adorable baby lambs that were born while on our property!
As the sheep graze their way down the vineyard rows, their pellets provide valuable natural fertilizer that is left on the topsoil, which dissolves slowly throughout the remainder of the year. They are especially talented at finding those pesky deep-rooted invasive weeds, and expertly controlling excess vegetation. Who needs a lawnmower?!
This year’s flock visited us after finishing a gig at a local butterfly sanctuary, where they helped increase the natural habitat by 2000% after just one season! Seriously impressive, right? Most importantly, their shepherd is equally as committed to supporting sustainable projects as we are here at Eco Terreno Wines & Vineyards. We hope to have them back early next year!
Our farming practices are guided by the seasonal rhythm of our vineyards. As the land absorbs nutrients from the winter rains, preparing for another growing season, our seemingly dormant vines are gathering strength. With the unseasonably warm weather we’ve experienced in February, bud break is arriving a bit early. Right now, the wine farm is taking a deep breath in, preparing to exhale with the bounties of a new crop.
In preparation, we have spent the past two months thoughtfully pruning each block, casting the dye for two successive vintages. We look at blocks individually to determine the yielding capacity of our vines and their potential to produce grapes that will ripen with expressive flavors. When needed, we control our yields by reducing the number of buds that grow into leafy shoots and grape clusters. For our established, more vigorous blocks, we allow them more room for growth and elect to produce a heavier crop. For young blocks and our oldest vines, we reduce the projected yield and choose to offer focused support to the clusters beautiful, complex juice they provide.
As we have been pruning, our cover crops below the vines are sprouting. Dozens of different plants are specifically selected based on contribution to soil health and the flowers they provide for beneficial pollinators visiting our estate. Our flourishing cover crop also contributes nitrogen to the soil, opening it up for stronger accessibility to rooting plants of all types. When the full bloom of spring has arrived, the vineyard literally hums with activity, ushering in insects and wildlife of all types and sizes.
Soon it is time to mow and allow the nutrients to fully absorb into our focused crop of grapes. No need to worry; the pruned canes are chipped, and along with the dropped clusters of grapes and cover crop, rotated back into the soil providing additional carbon material and further increasing soil health.
As you can tell, we are very excited! In the coming weeks we should see the first signs of bud break in the Chardonnay block, kicking off our 2020 growing season. We will keep you posted on its arrival!