Vineyard Manager Ruben Solorzano starts each growing season off right, with perfect pruning. The Cuadrilla members carefully angle each cut away from the dormant buds. The moisture will condense and drip off the cut without trickling towards the tiny bud once it breaks. If a crew does not pay attention to cut angles, water will saturate the new growth, and two additional early-season sulfur sprays are needed to eliminate fungus.
Healthy, natural viticulture begins with the angle of the pruning cut!
Pre-Pruning for Sustainable Employment
We could have purchased a tractor attachment long ago that mechanically pre-prunes the dormant vines. Pre-Pruning refers to a high chop a few buds above the actual precise pruning cut. The purpose of chopping off the canes is to clear the long sticks and dead leaves out of the trellising to make way for the new season’s canopy.
In order to keep La Cuadrilla busy post olive harvest and in early January, after the crew’s Christmas vacation, Stolpman Vineyards opts to pre-prune by hand.
The Grape Whisperer understands both vines and people
Making a separate pre-pruning pass is not necessary but Ruben insists upon it. Last year’s canes can be untangled and discarded at the time of the final pruning cut so to the inexperienced observer, a separate pre-pruning pass seems like a waist of time.
But here is where Ruben’s experience is invaluable. Ruben started his career as a crew member, so he understands the difference in the workers’ psyche during a full day of meticulous pruning, versus pre-pruning, when the crew must forcefully rip out dead canes entangled in trellising wires.
The actual pruning cut must be made precisely and methodically. The Cuadrilla member must size up each bud and spur and decide where to make the optimal cut and at what angle. Each vines’ buds appear at different positions and spacing so the crew member must adapt and think about each cut.
Ruben sees the need to separate the pre-pruning pass from the pruning day. Pre-pruning is competitively fast among the Cuadrilla members, tearing up and down the vineyard hills. Pruning day is slow and careful. Two totally different mindsets are needed and Ruben, having been there himself, knows he won’t get the same results if both tasks must be accomplished at the same time.
Waiting for the perfect day
Getting pre-pruning out of the way early allows Ruben to wait for the perfect time to prune. He waits until late February to delay bud-break and avoid frost damage. Like almost every action in the vineyard, the perfect day is dictated by the lunar cycle. When the time is right, the entire crew concentrates only on those perfectly angled cuts.