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On Winter Care

The cracklings of the fireplace on a cold winters day thaws my frozen toes from the mornings pruning. Rose colored cheeks, I take a sip from my warm winter squash soup in a focaccia bread bowl.

A deep breath and slight shiver, my swollen fingers grasp for the pruners. Back to the snow covered vineyards I tromp.

Kelly's dog, Paige, gallops down the snow covered rows. With a quick glance, I listen to the chardonnay vine whisper last year's story. A few snips and a bend of a cane, the vine is ready for the spring.

The vines faired well over this past harsh winter. For the most part, it is contributed to last years season and how low the temperatures go. There is a delicate balance between how much a vine grows versus how much it produces.

Simply, my job as a viticulturalist is to help the vine grow, produce grapes, and prepare itself for the winter. I do my best to keep the vine healthy and disease free through the growing season.

I carefully watch to see if the vines begin to darken and harden off in the late fall. Like wearing a jacket, the vines need all the protection the can use come winter.

Each variety of grapes has it own quirks. Some like to grow straight like an arrow, while other prefer to droop. Lemberger has very brittle canes that break when you bend them in the winter and Cabernet Sauvignon really likes to grow. Merlot and Gerwurztraminer are not very tolerant to weather below -6.

Taking into consideration what the vine wants to do, I place wires in certain position to support its growth. This is called a trellis.

My Chardonnay vines are trellised to a modified Guyot system, a fancy name for cutting the vine back to two long canes and wrapping them along a low wire.

Well, back to the vineyards. A few more weeks before we start to grow.

Kenneth Tarsitano


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