A grape grows in winter

All year, there is work to be done in the vineyard.

The short structures sticking from the cordon are spurs, which contain the buds that will grow the shoots, leaves and berries from the vine this year.

Right now, the vines neatly arranged in rows supported by trellises or standing alone in their gnarly-head state are stripped of their leaves and fruit, standing dormant, catching some much-needed rest after a year’s work producing their bounty, then withstanding the harvest.

In the winter, wine grape growers prune their vines to train them for the coming year. There are a number of reasons why this practice is necessary, including regulating the number and positions of shoots on a vine, and cluster number and size. During pruning, buds that would otherwise become new shoots are removed to concentrate growth into the remaining shoots and clusters. By consistently limiting the number of shoots and leaves by dormant pruning, the grower is also working to produce the maximum crop without delaying maturity.

“(Pruning) enables us to produce these amazing wines at Harney Lane,” said Kyle Lerner, owner of Harney Lane Winery in Lodi, as he pruned a Primitivo vineyard on his property. “So, what I’m doing here is, this is actually a cane that grew last year. Each one of these nodes had leaves on them and coming all the way back you can see what we call a skeleton. This is where the fruit actually was growing on these canes this past year.”

Workers tend to a vineyard off Davis Road in Lodi.

The grower must strike a balance between vegetative growth and fruiting. The goal is for the vine to focus its energy on growing the grape. Lerner prunes each cane and leaves one or two buds. This structure is called a spur. The cordon, or arm of the vine, will have about seven spurs on either side of the trunk. The buds contain in miniature all of the structures the vine will produce in the coming year — the shoots, the leaves and the fruit clusters.

“What that gives us is just enough fruit that ripens fully with a canopy that grows at about five feet,” Lerner said. “You can see the canes as they stretch out there, about five feet of canes out there. And that’s what makes our delicious Primitivo wine.”

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      Bob Highfill

      Record Sports Editor Bob Highfill is a wine enthusiast and has earned Level 3 certification with the Wine and Spirit Education Trust of London through the Napa Valley Wine Academy. Bob will share some of his experiences from his travels to Lodi and other prime wine locales in his blog and welcomes your suggestions, reviews and wine speak.
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