March 27, 2020


Great wines always start in the vineyards. This axiom is true when the vineyards is in France, California, or Texas. Texas vineyards are pruned for the most part. Fall Creek Vineyard Manager, Quincy Barton, described pruning as “In late winter just before the grape vines awaken from their dormancy, we prune them to keep the vines a desired size, eliminate dead, or damaged wood, eliminate older, non-productive wood, and to encourage the growth of new wood where the best future crops will be formed. Pruning is an essential step in “training” the vine or positioning the shoots from the trunk to best open the canopy to sunlight and air, and to make it easier to manage the vines throughout the growing seasons and harvest.” Pruning has become an art form in using botany as a tool to limit grape production to what each vine can handle with quality in mind. The technology transfer for vineyard management has increased in Texas where every vineyard has its own unique program to prune and manage vines based on the local soils, weather, vine orientation, and of course the specific vine species. Those awesome Texas Tempranillo grapes are handled differently when compared to those luscious Texas Viognier. For instance, the vines at Oxbow Vineyards managed by Fall Creek Vineyards, their vineyards are being transformed into a vineyard managed with cane pruning which focuses on using the most dynamic cane from the prior year in making the vineyard produce outstanding fruit and help to protect the vines from late frosts which is a dilemma in any vineyard regardless of location.
Dr. Vijay Reddy on the Texas High Plains near Brownfield has been training and pruning his vineyards using the two arm cordon pruning method. This method still uses a single trunk but with an arm of the vine stretching horizontally in opposite directions. This is a proven method used for many years in vineyards around the world. His vines are just now starting to bud out.
Gerald Jones with Los Pinos Vineyards in the Texas Hill Country is also experiencing “bud break in the Texas Hill Country vineyards and is excited for the upcoming vintage as he said, “All smiles! BUT…Lots of rain here too so accelerated early bud break combined with a warmer than usual winter and early Easter means we’re always crossing our fingers for no freeze/frost. Estate Black Spanish/Lenoir (5 acres) is showing signs of bud break despite delayed pre-pruning efforts while we were tending to the Blanc Du Bois waking up earlier than normal.”
Closer to home, the Patriarchs of Messina Hof Winery Paul and Merrill Bonarrigo, planted thousands of vines. Paul told me, ” Merrill and I have taken this time of isolation to Make Messina Hof Vineyards a Better Place 2 New Acers of Sagrantino 1 New Acre Blanc Du Bois and 3000 New Papa Paulo Port Plants (Lenoir aka Black Spanish).”
As we stay submerged during our pandemic, the lucky vineyard people get to work with Mother Nature as they look forward to another year of grapes. More on the upcoming Texas vintage as it evolves.
I have a homework assignment for each of you. On your next runs to HEB or Kroger’s, get a Texas six-pack of wine to support the Texas wine industry and also your morale!

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