Kicking Off the 2020 Vintage
How have you been doing lately? How are you adapting to this new (temporary) normal?
It’s been a hectic few weeks for us. We have had to shift our business model from predominately selling our wines to restaurants, which are now closed or slowed down to only offering takeout sales, to selling our wines online. While many people have also slowed down or have had to quarantine themselves, we’ve entered into our busiest season – pruning and bottling season.
We kicked off the pruning season by getting after our Riesling vines on April 4th, and we are nearly halfway finished with all seven acres. It’s a nonstop, daily process from now through May. We are pruning down to four buds on each vine spur, eventually pruning down to two buds. Those two buds will soon burst and become the shoots that produce the grape clusters for our 2020 wine.
You can see the four buds we’ve pruned down to in the first photo below. That pale, ecru-toned, vertical shoot is called a spur, and we are only keeping the strongest of spurs, ones that are pencil-thick. When the spurs are stronger, the resulting shoots are stronger, the clusters are healthier, and the wine is a better quality.
Great wine truly starts with intentional farming.
The Pruning Process
Why don’t we just prune down to two buds now?
While it seems like we are creating more work for ourselves, since we will have to go back through and prune down to two buds in a few weeks, we are actually preventing our vines from becoming damaged from any future frost events. The buds farthest away from the older wood of the cordon will emerge first. It is the vine’s way of preserving its strongest buds from a frost event. If we receive a blast of cold weather, the not-yet-emerged buds will be protected. We’ll then go back through, cutting back to two buds, once the threat of spring frost is behind us.
Many people do not enjoy the task of pruning. The four of us actually LOVE the process of setting up the vines for the season. It’s almost like a “spring reset” for the season. It’s a one-plant-at-a-time, painstakingly slow process, and it can wreak havoc on your hands, if you don’t take the time to stretch them out along the way. We tend to break every 30 or so vines to stretch our hands, sharpen our pruners, and look up at the sky to realign our postures.
When we walk up to a vine, we’re greeted with last year’s growth. It can look quite intimidating, but we take it one step at a time, starting by removing any weak or damaged portions of the plant. We then make sure the vine is supported and growing vertically. Vines naturally and prolifically act like weeds and will grow in all directions like a blackberry bush. Our job is to coax it into a position that gives the new shoots proper exposure to sunlight and also sets up the vines for better chances of survival during the dormant winter season. We’re also pruning down to the correct amount of buds we’d like to keep and making sure each vine is snugly secured to the fruiting wire.
We’re also collecting all of the old vine wood, so that we can turn it into mulch. We will then use that vine wood mulch to mound up our newly planted vines in the fall, in order to protect their tender, frost-sensitive graft lines. We will take any chance we can get to utilize “waste” and turn it into something useful.
Our team of four is able to work apart from each other, so that we are adhering to social distancing guidelines. We do our best to work as a team by staying in the same zones and listening to music together. Our morale is high, and we are encouraged to keep a steady pace, with our goal of finishing the pruning of all 15 acres before the end of May.
Creativity From Chaos
It is interesting to note that in our last blog post, we mentioned, “Sometimes a temporary disappointment can provide a moment for a creative and daring spark.” We were referring to how we rallied to purchase a relatively unknown grape to make rosé this past year, since two of our Pinot Noir accounts weren’t able to sell us their grapes. It is interesting that we can apply that very same quote to our current moment.
Because the coronavirus has limited and challenged our sales model, we have had to quickly pivot to being an online wine salesroom. We rallied to create a virtual wine-tasting series on Instagram Live, and we crafted “Quarantine Tasting Packs“, filled with wines that coordinated with that tasting series. We even teamed up with a few of our favorite food bloggers and writers to pair their recipes with those wines, and we also teamed up with a local company, The Spice Guy, to offer unique spice blends to use in those recipes.
The response has been incredible!
We are doing our best to keep the mood positive and our business growing, despite the limitations imposed upon us. We also teamed up with Kori Stanton, aka DJ Koko Love, of KVNF radio. She has created playlists for each of our wines in the tasting series and published the first paired playlist this past week, bringing our 2018 Dry Riesling to audible life!
You can listen to “Sassy Beats” on both iTunes and Spotify. We’ll be updating our website, as she publishes each playlist, but you can also follow Kori on these two platforms, so you’ll be the first to hear anything she shares. Visit DJ Koko Love’s profiles:
We are so grateful for the widespread support these past few weeks! We are overjoyed to pack up our Quarantine Tasting Packs and send them out across the country to friends, family members, colleagues, and plenty of new faces. We are also happy that the weather has been favorable to let us make serious headway in the vineyard.
Happy spring and happy Easter to you!
Jayme and Steve