Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Peju Prunes

Pruning Party
 Last week was Employee Pruning Day at Peju! No, that is not a euphemism for layoffs, it's a chance for all of our employees to try their hand at pruning the vines and learn a bit about the science behind the process. And we were all blown away with how much we did learn.

Alejandro teaching

And showing us how it's REALLY done
Manuel and Alejandro were our gracious and patient guides. They explained which parts of the vine should go, which should stay, and why. Much of the process consists of getting rid of older shoots, which left untended could begin to take over the vine and drain nutrients and energy from the rest of the plant. Ideally, you leave a smaller shoot that is just hefty and strong enough to support an adequate number of clusters. Next year, that same shoot will be removed to make room for smaller growth beside it.

We also had to be mindful about training the shoots up towards the sky, which meant pruning anything growing sideways or downward. And on top of that, we learned to be liberal and decisive with the shears in order to avoid overcrowding and superfluous growth. After all, it's quality over quantity so we did not need to facilitate as many clusters as possible from one vine. Instead, we learned that the focus of pruning is to maintain a healthy vine with streamlined, consistent, and balanced growth.

With all of that information bouncing around in my head, I grabbed my shears and got to work on the vine, which I completed in just a minute or two. And I was extremely proud of it. I then watched Manuel do the same thing in about 5 seconds and realized my stark incompetence. There is so much to consider so I was amazed at how they these guys are able to break it down into a formula and execute so quickly. Practice makes perfect I guess, but most of us were nowhere near perfection!

A great experience and thank you so much to our winemaking and vineyard team!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Mustard! And everything that comes with it.

It's mustard season! Time to frolick through the yellow flowers, take hundreds of pictures, and soak in the beautiful sights before it all disappears into the ground. There is really nothing like it, so enjoy.

But pictures of mustard alone does not a blog post make. Beyond the bright and happy feeling these millions of yellow flowers bring to the valley, the mustard plays a serious and important role that touches the core of what viticulture and winemaking is all about.

To explain, the vineyard is a major part of the valley's ecosystem and the microcosm of Rutherford. As we look closer, we see that the vineyard is a living, breathing network of organisms on its own. A network that somehow produces beautiful wine, provides dozens of jobs, and offers entertainment and leisure for thousands of visitors each year. No small feat. But let's add to that. Because we practice organic agriculture, the vineyard is not just a gigantic, interconnected system that facilitates so many amazing things (wine, quintessential pastoral beauty). It is also a gigantic, interconnected system that will sustain itself for years to come, and operates on nothing but sun, earth, rain, insects, and in the words of Kung Fu Panda, "universe juice".
And one significant cog in that wheel of sustainability is the use of cover crops. Namely, mustard, beans, oats, and wildflowers that have a symbiotic relationship with the vines. As these plants grow they fulfill many, many tasks that include fortifying the soil with beneficial nitrogen, soaking up water from heavy rains that might otherwise go undrained (bad), and attracting beneficial insects that ultimately predate smaller pests. So as you marvel at the fluorescent blossoms, don't forget how important they are to the big picture, and each picture you take will mean that much more!