Katy Rutland
April 3, 2014 | What's Up in the Winery | Katy Rutland

What's Up in the Winery: Trimming Back


All throughout the winter, grape vines have been taking their cue from bears and hibernating. After their busy seasons of growing and producing fruit, they have a well-deserved rest for a couple months. Once the weather warms, they start waking up, and, like any teenager with an unruly head of hair, they need a trim.


In the wine industry, this “haircut” is called pruning. Green-thumbs and gardening enthusiasts will understand this concept, but for those of us who aren’t as plant savvy, here’s a run-down on why pruning is so important.


Take a look at the picture to the left. That’s an un-pruned grape vine. The light tan things sticking out of the top of the vine are vestiges of last year’s growth, left after the flurry of harvest. Well, that’s simply too much vine for the coming spring (with the recent cold snap, you’d think it was January, not April).


When to prune is often determined by the weather and when the vines will come out of dormancy, or wake up. When the air and ground get warmer, the vines wake up.


So why prune? Why not let them grow their own ways?




According to Assistant Winemaker Randy Swanson, pruning is a necessary process that will greatly determine the vine’s yield at harvest. By trimming the excess vine from last season, a winemaker can determine how many buds will break, which is a major factor in controlling how many grapes grow. Uncontrollables like climate and sun exposure are other factors.


Cutting back the vines as they come out of hibernation also kicks in the plant’s instinct to grow. The vine has no leaves, so it starts sprouting them, needing them to collect the abundant Red Mountain sun so they can grow more leaves and vines and, later, flowers and grapes.


With this in mind, that old wive’s tale about how cutting a branch will grow seven in its place (or, to continue the haircut analogy, getting hair trimmed to grow it out) is starting to make a bit of sense.


Thanks to the late cold front, pruning our Estate Vineyards was interrupted and postponed for a couple of weeks. By now, most of the blocks of vineyard have been pruned with only a couple left waiting. Given our 100+ acres of mature vines, pruning takes a whole team almost a month to complete, each vine carefully tended and trimmed to ensure optimal growth. Take a look to the right for what a pruned vine looks like.


Soon enough, new growth will sprout along those brown, barky cordons (the technical name for the thick horizontal vines), and the growing season will start in earnest. Before long we’ll be harvesting and wondering where the summer went!


What’s up next for the winery and vineyard? Stay tuned to Terra Blanca By The Glass for all your vineyard news and happenings.


Veni, Vidi, Vinum!

Terra Blanca


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