The Fine Prune
The hand prune is the most time consuming job in the year of the vineyard. Each February, while the plants are dormant, we take a hedge trimmer and cut last year’s growth right below the first canopy wire. We come back in March to prune each plant by hand with our pruners. We begin on row one and go through the vineyard plant by plant until we’re finished. The work is slow and tedious.
We aim for 6 to 8 spur positions per side on each arm for a total of around 14 spur positions total for each plant. Each spur is cut down to 2 buds to provide fruit for the year.
Once bud break occurs, we have the makings of a high-quality wine grape with minimal quantity, aiming for less than 2 tons per acre.
The Growing Season
In the Rolling Plains of the Texas Panhandle, a myriad of factors can dictate each year’s crop. A late freeze after bud break, hail storms, drought and abundant rainfall can affect what – if anything – is harvested.
We spend our growing season keeping weeds under control while periodically applying fungicide to protect the plants throughout the various stages of grape production.
With our temperatures being some of the highest across the nation, our heat units are high which matures the Sangiovese wine grape cluster faster than what occurs in the Tuscany region. This equals higher sugars faster than most wine grape growing regions in the world.
High sugar means higher alcohol content with no added sugars in the final bottled product!
The Hand Harvest
While the hand harvest is the toughest and most time-consuming job in the vineyard, it’s the best feeling in the world to see the semi take bins of grapes over the cattle guards that hold in our registered Angus cattle!
We do daily brix tests around 6 a.m. to determine the sugar level of the vineyard. We pick clusters, checking skin color, taste and seed maturity.
Once we think we are close, samples are submitted to the laboratory for exact numbers, focusing on brix count, Ph and TA. If the winemaker agrees, we schedule the harvest date.
It takes a concerted effort from many family members and friends to assemble enough people to get through the vineyard as fast as possible while temperatures are mild. It usually begins before sunrise and usually lasts till sunset. The more the merrier and this is where most of our Four-ever friends find their way into the fold.