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  • Writer's pictureSierra Williams

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

Bundle up for some winter vineyard management.

Though the winter season is considered the “off” season in viticulture, grape growers are still hard at work in the fields. Read below to learn about vineyard management and a few tips to survive the cold when you're working in the elements!

As the season changes in late autumn and temperatures grow colder, the grape vines go through a process of cold acclimation. During this process, the vines undergo metabolic and genetic changes to withstand the harsh winter months to come. The cane ripens from green to brown periderm, becoming progressively more resistant to cold temperatures (dormancy).

Tip #1: Crack open a bottle of wine to warm up the insides. Just don't chop off a finger! Maybe reward yourself after the day is done ;) Sit back, sip, and take in the winter views!

What happens during dormancy?

In the later stages of dormancy in the vineyard, viticulturists begin pruning the grape vines in preparation for the upcoming harvest.

The vigorous growth from the prior year is cut back, with the exception of one year fruiting canes and renewal spurs. This can be a time intensive task if performed by hand. The vines and spindles love to wrap themselves around the trellis wire, and they are strong sun-of-a-guns! A sharp pair of pruning shears is essential.

Why leave the one year growth? Grapes bear fruit on the green shoots that arise from one year old canes. The older cane is vegetative and will not produce any grape clusters.

Tip #2: We highly recommend bringing a cute assistant to provide a distraction from frozen hands!

Other Winter Tasks in the Vineyard

Winter is a great season to begin ground preparation for the following year. The optimal time to perform this task is any time that the soil is workable. Now, what exactly does that mean? Well for starters, it is much easier to work the soil when it isn't frozen. That's a given. There must also be some moisture present; however, not enough to cause soil compaction or clodding.

The winter months are also a great time to assess the vineyard for any damage to infrastructure (trellis posts, wire, bird netting, etc) and make necessary repairs.

As springtime approaches and the vines begin to de-acclimate for warmer weather, the individual vines are evaluated for any winter kill or damage from frost. Notes will be taken and replacemant vines will be ordered for spring.

Tip #3: Warm cookies. You'll thank me later.

Rain or shine. Green leaves or snow. Farmers are hard at work!

"Striving for success without hard work is like trying to harvest where you haven't planted"

-David Bly


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