Thursday, February 10, 2011

Winter in the Vineyard - February

There's more to a wine estate, than grapes. This month, the Master Gardners held a class here to teach trainees how to prune fruit trees. Avio has over 100 fruit trees around the estate, all needing to be pruned. During the growing season, we enjoy the fresh fruit; but we can only eat a small percentage of the crop. So, most of the fruit is donated to the wildlife rescue foundation. The rest is given to our (lucky) guests in the tasting room. We have apples, peaches, plums, cherries, nectarines, kiwi, lemon, lime, grapefruit and persimmons. In addition to the fruit trees, its also time to prune the flowering plants like crepe myrtles. We are proud to be able to offer this opportunity to such a worthwhile organization as the Master Gardeners.

Once the fruit trees are done we start on the grapes. As mentioned in January, we are experiencing an el Nina winter which means we are still in for a lot of rain and cold weather - and possibly a late frost. We have to balance a few things when timing the pruning. If we prune too early, and it rains on an open cut (a wound to the plant), disease can enter the plant through the open wound. Also, if we get a frost, and the buds of the plant are young, we can lose the crop - so, timing is everything.

Avio has the benefit of having good cold-air drainage. To put it in layman's terms, on still nights, with clear skies, there is a temperature inversion in which all the cold air sinks to the ground. In a valley all the cold air will "pool" or collect. At Avio, we are on a ridge that allows the cold air to drain down into the valley. It will take 5 weeks for us to complete the pruning leaving the lowest (coldest) areas last to be pruned last. We have started on the zinfandel, and will then move on to the Sangiovese. Both these vineyards are near the top of the property.

For more about pruning grape vines, you might enjoy this information from U.C. Davis