The grapes from last season have all been harvested as the wineries in Napa Valley have begun to convert another excellent crop into their world-famous wines. Winemakers and crews of St. Helena wineries, as well as in wineries in Sonoma County, are busily aging, fermenting, blending, filtering, and bottling new vintages for future customers.

Even though the grapes are now in production and the vines are no longer producing fruit or leaves, the hard work in the vineyards continues as experienced crew members prepare for the next growing cycle.

During the dormancy period, cleaning up the debris left from the harvest, insect management, and several other essential tasks like carefully pruning each vine are necessary.

What Happens to the Vines During Dormancy?

While it may appear that nothing happens until springtime, the vines are drawing on stored energy to strengthen their woody root and trunk systems.

Dormancy is a critical phase of vineyard health. This stage involves endodormancy and ecodormancy, each step occurring and diminishing gradually as the weather changes.

Endodormancy is the plant stage that inhibits growth while resisting colder external conditions. Plants will not emerge from this stage until they have endured a specific amount of cold weather for their climate. Water levels within the plant tissues are reduced to lessen the chances of internal freezing.

As the grapevines emerge from endodormancy, they transition to ecodormancy when they become more susceptible to external weather conditions and begin to anticipate the advent of warmer weather. New buds will not develop until the temperature reaches a warmer level and encourage growth.

While warming and budding are usually positive developments, a sudden return of freezing weather will cause significant problems in the vineyards.

Pruning the Vines

One of the critical elements of vineyard management is the annual pruning process. Unless the vines are cut back strategically each year, they become overgrown and begin to weaken, making them difficult to manage, more susceptible to disease, and will result in reduced yields. Most importantly, pruning reduces the spread of harmful vine trunk diseases.

The annual pruning process for vineyards supplying wineries in Napa Valley and wineries in Sonoma County typically begins in January and February, the coldest months of the year while the vines are still dormant. Pruning supports vineyard health, including future yields and vine shape.

Two Methods of Vineyard Pruning

Vineyard managers employ two different strategies for their winter pruning. These methods are cane pruning and cordon pruning. Here are the differences:

Cane Pruning

Cane pruning requires cutting away all but two of the canes from last year’s growth, then channeling these in opposite directions along a horizontal wire to guide the season’s growth.

Cordon Pruning

Cordon pruning maintains two cordons or permanent limbs that extend outward in each direction from the trunk. Pruners will remove all the vertical growth that emanated from these permanent limbs during the past season.

Canes and leaves that are removed are mulched into the soils to provide nutrients for the coming year.

Napa and Sonoma Wine Tours with Platypus Wine Tours

To learn more about vineyard management and winemaking while engaging in an entertaining experience, reserve a place for a private or join-in Wine Tour with Platypus Wine Tours of Napa. Specializing in tours and wine tastings at wineries in Napa Valley and wineries in Sonoma, Platypus Wine Tours are fun, safe, and educational. You can visit locations throughout the region, including some of the very elite St. Helena wineries, to broaden your knowledge and have a great time.

Make your reservations for your visits to wineries in Napa Valley and Sonoma County by visiting the Platypus Wine Tours website, or phone a Platypus reservationist at +1-707-253-2723.