Pruning with Purpose!

Canopy management.  It is something all winemakers have to think about and maintain, but what does it look like?  Kyle Gingras, our rockstar Vineyard Manager, gives us an inside look at this topic with a specific example of pruning a few blocks of Syrah….

‘Cane Pruning’ System vs our Classic ‘Spur Pruning’ System

By Kyle Gingras

Last year, we performed a pruning trial in a couple of blocks of syrah to see if a different pruning system could give us more dependable fruit uniformity.  The trial was a ‘cane pruning’ system vs our classic ‘spur pruning’ system, with the idea that the cane would give us the results we were looking for.  These blocks of Syrah have been struggling to get enough fruit to balance the size of its canopy, meaning these canopies were bringing a fast rate of ripening to the small amount of fruit on the vine (I like to use the big engine in a little car comparison Ü). Having the amount of fruit in balance with canopy size brings that uniformity back in line.

There are many ways to bring a vine’s fruit yield up, however most of these ways are quite manipulative and really “push” the vines too hard, and that is just not Epoch’s style. 😉

There are certain varieties of grape vines that ‘prefer,’ if you will, the cane pruning style vs spur pruning, and Syrah happens to be one of them. What I mean is that the buds higher (or further out) on the cane are more fruitful than the buds down lower (which are the buds left when we spur prune) on these type of varieties. So by switching the pruning, we were able to achieve the result we were hoping for without pushing the vine out of its natural abilities.

At harvest time the results of the trial were in and….We loved how the cane system performed! So this year we are fully converting some syrah blocks to this system, and below are some pictures of this process.  Hopefully these photos will give you a good visual of the ‘cane’ system and the ‘spur’ system!

Photo 1: “The Crew” working hard on the first pruning cuts of 2015!

Photo 2: This is what these syrah vines look like before we started pruning this year!

Photo 3: To the right edge of the photo, note the cut in the older section of the vine wood. This is the first step in converting from the spur prune system. What is being cut is known as the arm or cordon of the vine in this model. On top of the arm, you will notice nubs of older wood where last year’s growth came from (the lighter colored canes), these are the “spurs” in the spur prune system. We need to remove these arms in order for the new pruning system to be effective…

Photo 4: Note the amount of vine material on the ground…quite the process to convert pruning systems!

Photo 5: This is the end result of the conversion.  The two sticks left at the top of the vine are the ‘canes’ we are leaving for the new 2015 growth!

Photos 6 and 7: Finally, here are a couple shots of the final look of the cane pruning. As you can see, the final two canes on each plant are now tied down on the fruiting wire, ready to start growing!

We have only started to convert a few blocks of Syrah at Paderewski to cane pruning, the ones that needed the help. There are still other blocks of Syrah we will continue to spur prune, so it is probably safe to say we will only convert blocks on an as needed basis.