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Monday, June 13, 2011

Shoot thinning

Almost all done with the shoot thinning and suckering. It is probably the single most important step in the long haul toward making a good bottle of wine. Like pruning it removes all the extraneous growth (some cultivars such as Barbera are particularly vigorous and can through up to five times more shoots than you want) which focuses the crop load, opens the canopy to allow light in which reduces mildew and pest pressure, and it allows structuring of the canopy to get a full day's worth of evenly dappled light. It also allows you to direct the growth toward better spur positioning (if you use cordons) equal loading across the whole vine. These vines are just now getting past ten years, and as they age they will wisen and start self-managing, but until then they are gangly sprawling teenagers that can't focus or think ahead and have no idea what may come around the corner.

The touchy part is that you are manipulating the canopy in June for something that may not be ripe until November first (I am talking to you Aglianico, Nebbiolo, Montepulciano, or Cabernet, Touriga, etc.). The vines can get pretty tired by then so you may need to leave a little more canopy then you think to get through the 100-degree days in Lake County, which is the opposite of what you would do with Pinot in Oregon or on the Coast. The Barbera is going to three canes per spur because of its spindly growth but the canes will generally be thinned to one bunch per cane for the large bunch clone (we have a couple) - most of this is unscientific eyeballing and guestimation. It is all delicate work though based on managing into the hopeful future (and having no idea after the last three years what in the world the weather will do).

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