As you may have driven past any one of the many vineyards sprinkled throughout beautiful El Dorado County (maybe ours), perhaps you have noticed that pruning is vigorously underway.
As I watched our vines being pruned, a number of thoughts came to me. The first one was that I needed a haircut. Other thoughts were a bit more philosophical, but not deeply so, nor in any way profound. But, the reminder that a new beginning is about to take place can hardly be lost on anyone observing vines undergoing a process of change. Old growth must make way for new growth. Without a lot of hard work, proper timing and careful trimming, there can be no renewal. Without pruning, new growth will be stunted and vines will under produce.
I have a friend, Alex, who lives in Lausanne, Switzerland. I met him at Cal over 40 years ago. We still visit. It was my turn to go to him this year. One particular day, Alex took Sandy and me for a drive through the vineyards on the slopes overlooking Lake Geneva, which I always enjoy. I saw a vineyard worker pruning vines with what appeared to be a Black and Decker hedge trimmer. Since the hedge trimer was being used on premier vineyard property, I was more than a little interested. It could cut pruning time down significantly.
When I mentioned my discovery to our winemaker, Grayson, he looked at me with a cross between pity and genuine concern. He reminded me that pruning is careful precision work, not at all akin to trimming hedges. Pruning must be carried out with attention to the tender new shoots and the desired placement of the new growth along the cordons. In short, no Black and Decker hedge trimmers were going to be turned loose on Grayson’s vineyard. Despite the loss of potential efficiency, I readily acquiesced. What appeared to be a good idea at the time was not to be.
Sometimes there are no shortcuts, especially when it comes to producing fine wine. It’s good to be reminded that change, no matter how well intentioned, does not necessarily produce a better result. It's good to have Grayson managing the Vineyard. There are times to experiment and there are times to not.