The vineyard year at Kick Ranch began last week with pruning and pruning always begins with a plan. It’s one of the most important things we do in the vineyard because it sets the stage for future crop levels — both quality and quantity. With pruning, we focus the growth of our vines where we want it, and this determines how much fruit a vine will have.
Prior to the pruning process, I met with my vineyard managers Glenn Alexander and Tony Bugica to agree on our pruning plan. At Kick, the variety of grape, location, health of the vines and this year, concerns about the lack of rainfall so far this winter, all play a role in the decision on how to best prune. We are “pruning small” this year to reduce the number of buds that will become clusters of grapes. This will help concentrate the vine’s energy on fewer grape clusters and help us reduce water demand.
Pruning has a direct impact on both the current year’s harvest and the following year’s crop, since the buds are also actually deciding how many bunches and shoots they’ll put out the following year. The main types of pruning done at Kick Ranch are cane and cordon pruning.
Up to four new canes from the previous year are trained onto the wires out to each side of the trunk (two per side, ideally), to a point midway to the next vine. Each of these canes will have 8-10 buds. This is a much more time-consuming pruning process than cordon pruning, as you need to make a decision vine-by-vine on the best canes to keep in order to create the right shape and fruitfulness.
The old wood remains trained on the wires, and the spurs on the arms of the vine are the fruiting wood. The previous year’s spur will have produced two canes. Typically, the lowest of these two canes will be used and pruned down to the lowest two buds on it; the higher cane will be cut down below its lowest bud. In this way, a new spur (with two buds and two bunches per bud) is created each year.
We cane prune our Sauvignon Blanc vines and also our Grenache, Mourvedre and Cinsault vines. We cordon prune our Petite Sirah and Viognier. For our Sirah, we are experimenting with moving from cordon to cane pruning for some of the Kick winery clients, including Overland Wines.
But whatever method is used, pruning is all about balance: Deciding just the right amount of fruit each vine at Kick Ranch can comfortably ripen to perfection for Overland Wines and all of our Kick Ranch winery clients.