|We’ve had the same vineyard team here at Tablas Creek for the last fifteen years. Neil Collins has overseen both the vineyard and the winemaking since 1998. He is assisted by Winemaker Ryan Hebert and Vineyard Manager David Maduena, both of whom have been here since our 1997 harvest.So it’s with some excitement that we introduce Levi Glenn, who joins us this summer in the post of Viticulturist. He brings a decade of experience managing vineyards in Napa and Sonoma, and has focused on converting vineyards from modern to biodynamic viticulture for the last five years. Plus, he’s got formal training, which none of the rest of us do, with a degree in Viticulture & Enology from Cal Poly. We couldn’t be more excited to add him to our team. He introduces himself, and gives a brief overview of shoot thinning, in the below video.
We took some close-up photographs of the shoot thinning process as well. The goal of shoot thinning is to select the two best shoots on each of the three spurs that we’ve left on each cordon. As our vines are pruned double-cordon, this means we’re selecting a dozen shoots per vine, each ideally with one cluster of grapes. These shoots are going to provide the photosynthetic capacity, as well as the grape production, of the vine for the year.
This process completes the effort that we begin with our winter pruning of taking a three-dimensional plant and turning it into something more two-dimensional so that we can better ensure even access to sunlight as well as better flow-through of air. Good air circulation reduces the potential for mildew or rot and allows whatever nutritional or antifungal treatments we think the vineyard needs to penetrate the canopy. On the left is an un-thinned vine, so bushy it nearly obscures Levi, and on the right a vine post-thinning, fruit exposed to the light:
Shoots that don’t have fruit, that exit the cordon horizontally rather than angled up, or that are too close to a better shoot, are pruned away. Below, Levi points at the spurs that will be kept, with the others pruned away. In this selection process, we’re also thinking of the coming winter, when we’ll select three of these shoots per cordon to become the next year’s two-bud spurs.
The process this year is more challenging than normal. The principal cause is our April frosts, which damaged many of the spurs that we left last winter and forced the plant to sprout from secondary buds that were not in ideal starting locations. A secondary cause was the wet, cool, late spring, which delayed us getting into the vineyard until later in the year, when the long days, the sudden arrival of warmth in June and the abundant ground water have combined to produce explosive growth.
Despite our late start, we’re more than 90% done with shoot thinning. One more photo will give you a sense of the progress: thinned vines on the row on the left, with bushy vines awating thinning further up the row as well as on the row to the right: