March 2021 Blog Post – By Enologist Michelle Moss
“The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure:–
But the least motion which they made
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.
The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.”Excerpt from “Lines Written in Early Spring” by William Wadsworth
With the weather being pleasant lately, I have started walking through the Domenico Estate Vineyard during my lunch break, in attempts to not only to get some much-needed sunlight but to work off some of this baby fluff I’ve been holding onto since the birth of my son nine months ago. During these walks, I enjoy observing little birds playing among the vines, hopping from one branch to another, and squirrels chasing one another over, under, and around the vines like a game of elementary tag. Occasionally, a rabbit will dart out from a row and quickly do an about-face back to safety once it sees me.
During this time of year, the vineyards are rapidly and noticeably changing from one day to the next. I snapped some twiggy pictures of our Corvina last week then observed only one day later that they had been pruned. Though I am far from a viticulturist, I immediately noticed that the pruning technique was different from how the other vines in the Domenico Estate Vineyard had been pruned. These vines now have a “Y” shape rather than the “T” shape that all other vines in our vineyard have.
Cane pruned Corvina (left) —– Spur pruned vines (right)
Winemakers Terry and Anthony attempted to explain the reasoning for this difference, which led to a rabbit hole of biological vocabulary, plant physiology, diagrams and YouTube videos that I dare not subject you to for fear of inducing an uncurable daze. Instead, allow me to summarize: The corvina vines have been cane pruned, as opposed to the typical spur pruning. This year’s fruit will grow on shoots that are being trained into new canes.
Training cane pruned Corvina
Once the grapes have the flavor profile and chemical makeup that is desirable for our AmaRhone, the canes will be snipped to disconnect the fruit from their water source (the main vine), like how raisins are produced. This will not affect the quality of the grapes or the resulting wine but will make the process more efficient as opposed to the previous method of removing the fruit from the vine to place on raisin trays.
Cane pruning is common practice in Oregon and coastal vineyards, especially for pinot noir, but is an unusual occurrence in our area. Pruning techniques vary from area to area and winemaker to winemaker, depending upon many factors such as airflow, proliferation, canopy management, rain, and moisture. Because Paso Robles is typically a dry area, more foliage is desired for protecting the fruit from the sun. In the case of the corvina that needs to desiccate quickly once ripe, cane pruning will assist in striking a balance between appropriate leaf surface area for healthy photosynthesis and providing adequate sun exposure for drying, which are equally necessary to concentrate the sugars and AmaRhone character of these specific grapes.
Pruning of grapes in early spring before bud-break may cause bleeding to occur from the vine. Bleeding contains sap that flows when the xylem tissues in the canes have been severed. It is thought to be caused by positive root pressure due to the reactivation of the roots in the spring.
In addition to pruning, other happenings around the winery include routine equipment maintenance, blending trials for the 2019 vintage of red wines, barrel topping and current chemical analysis for QC purposes, and pruning olive trees. It is a relief that we are all staying busy and active during these times otherwise Chef Walter’s fabulous Take-and-Bake meals and intoxicating weekend lunch offerings would cause some serious fit issues with our clothing. Have you tried his tri-color lasagna yet? If not, get ready to tell your partner to move over because a new love is about to take their place. Whether you have or have yet to experience this culinary masterpiece, I hope to see you at our Lunch Under the Tent event for Vintage Paso Weekend on March 20th and 21st, where we will be serving a lasagna lunch complete with salad, dessert and a glass of wine.
Until then, enjoy the end of winter and keep an eye open for bud breakout in the vineyards. Don’t forget to celebrate my favorite nerdy holiday, International Pi Day on March 14th, which happens to coincide with one of my least favorite days of the year, springing forward one hour for the beginning of daylight savings time!