Tuesday, April 22, 2008

More Trouble: Training 2nd Year Vines

The vines have been in the ground for one year. We pruned as instructed this winter; a couple of inches above the cordon wire, in the expectation of taking new shoots from below the wire and fashioning even, strong cordons. Friends, if I were doing this again, I would watch out for pruning "above the wire", especially for vigorous vines. What happened is that the new growth came in significantly above the wire, and it's difficult to bend those puppies down without breaking them off. We're wondering if we just need to top the vines and start all over? (Note: A quick call to the consultant Frank: his advice: do not top the vines; if necessary, clip the vines shooting straight up; that should force new growth below the shoot, in a more horizontal direction.) The Queen is trying Japanese gardening techniques to slowly bend the fast growing, skyward bound shoots. The vineyard consultant suggested no need to "top off" the vines again, but to cut the shoots near the base, and the bud may send forth a new shoot. I was outside at 6a.m. this morning, attempting to bend some vines, but not having the Japanese touch, broke quite a few. Friends, this is not a happy day for us in crafting this vineyard. I remind myself: patience, patience, patience. Vineyard is art. Plenty of "hoot hoot hoot-hoot" sounds, but no sign of a visitor to our owl box yet. Jerry reports that the conditions are not yet ripe for mildew (something else to worry about). The gophers have been having a field day -- as I was out of town, and the weeds are on the counter attack. That damned plastic thread in the weed whacker is no fun at all to change. Send me the weekend, please!

(We found the Aglianico vines, which are on less vigorous root stock and much "thinner" than the Tempranillo vines which are on vigorous stock -- to be much easier to train. Thank goodness!)

(Note from May 15th -- The Tempranillo vines, on a vigorous, drought resistant rootstock, have been growing like crazy -- indeed, shoots that had been accidentally broken off have been replaced, and the gaps in cordons are filling in. Things are coming along well. Alas, the pruning advice we received was right on. And, an important lesson learned: The new shoots are coming in thick and healthy. In the winter, I hesitated to cut off the weaker 1st year cordons -- but now I see that in year 2, they can be replaced with a much stronger cordon, and so I'm cutting them off, in favor of the new growth.

(Note from December 11, 2008 -- The 2nd year vines grew fairly well, mostly. There were a few where we did break off some cordons, so there are some gaps. No worries though. We'll plant some more vines in between the gaps, with shorter cordons, which should yield better fruit. If you are planning to plant your own vineyard, study the variable on spacing. We're hearing that shorter cordons produce more intense fruit, and better tasting wines. We have about 250 first year vines that we'll be pruning and training in February 2009. This year, we have let them grow "wild" without any training at all -- not one cut. Pruning will be a challenge, but the stalks of these vines are healthier/thicker than last year's first year vines. When we "top" these vines in February, it will be just a bit above the cordon -- most of this year's vines we planted 4-feet apart.)

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