Been a little quite over here, but the last month has been CRAZY! #AmIRight
In mid-February we got away for vacation and came back with plenty of steam to tackle our remaining project list before season kick-off! Even though that will likely be delayed due to Covid-19, we are still moving forward in many other fronts.
Pruning has been the main task this month. The vineyard has the perfect place to social distance and take in the beautiful spring days – and a little extra sunshine can’t hurt!
Grape vines are pruned every spring while still dormant (some do it in winter, but I’m a fair-weather pruner and seem to wait ‘til the last minute) to remove as much as 90% of last year’s growth. This is all done by hand and usually takes us about 100 hours total. Grapes fruit on one-year old canes or shoots, so constant renewal is crucial to obtain maximum yields and produce high quality grapes. We consider the past year’s growing season conditions and yields and assess the health of each plant to decide how many buds to leave and ultimately determine target yield. The goal is to balance fruit loads with a proper but not excessive amount of shoot growth to match. Leaving too few buds could result in excessive shoot growth, shading the fruit and making spray applications ineffective. In contrast, leaving too many buds will stress the plant and also produce poor quality fruit.
We tend to attack pruning in two stages – what we call long pruning, then short pruning. Somewhat for our sanity, and also for plant health. It’s easier to make a pass in late winter/ early spring and remove the ‘bulk’. Then we can come back right around bud break (when the first leaves begin to emerge) to make a final assessment of winter damage and select the canes to remain and produce fruit.
An early spring is exciting, but also stressful for the vineyard manager! Frost in the vineyard after bud break can be absolutely devastating, reducing yields by as much as 50% or more. If the primary shoot (the first shoot to emerge from the bud) dies, a secondary shoot may develop, but will not produce near the amount or quality of fruit that the primary shoot would have. Our method of two-stage pruning (and my procrastination that I’ll call a ‘delayed pruning’ method) can delay bud break as well, saving them from any potential damage.
So what comes next for Backcountry? We’re doing a lot of the same things you are – working from home, washing our hands ALL THE TIME, and taking things day by day.
What can you do to support us? Let us support you – buy wine!
We’ll be open for carry out sales this weekend! Friday (March 27) 1-7pm and Saturday (March 28) 1-5pm. Shoot us a FB message or call or text your order to 515-257-6739 and we’ll bring it out! We can accept all forms of payment and look forward to seeing you (from a safe distance of 6 feet) at the winery!
Preston and Amber both grew up on farms in Northwest Iowa. They share a passion for the outdoors and enjoy taking on new projects to see what adventures will be discovered. As high school sweethearts, they attended Iowa State University together, and now are continuing to pursue their dreams at Backcountry Winery.