Good farming, especially during a drought, requires good timing and in the case of pruning, too early can be as big a problem as too late. We've seen vines, pruned in December, that sprouted green leaves in early February and were subsequently burned off in an early, hard frost. If a vine is pruned in late February or early March, budbreak can be delayed, which is beneficial in the event of a spring frost. Ideally we would like to prune all our vines a week before budbreak but, since Navarro has over 100,000 vines to prune by hand, we must start pruning in January in order to complete pruning by early March. When a vine starts growth in the spring, buds that are the furthest away from the trunk open first. We begin pruning season by pre-pruning
our cordon-trained vineyards; last season's growth of long canes, sprouted from spur positions on the horizontal arms, are all trimmed to foot long sticks. When budbreak is close and the end buds have started to leaf, the final pruning can be performed quickly; the buds closest to the trunk remain closed and less likely to be damaged by frost.
Oscar Ojeda Hernandez doing the final pruning, in early March, in the C block of Navarro's Hammer Olsen Pinot Noir vineyard. Notice that the buds at the top of these foot-long shoots are already showing green leaf but the two retained buds are closed and less susceptible to frost damage. The buds will remain closed for several more days.
In the prior season, the vine's shoots climbed by attaching their tendrils to the foliage wires. The first pruning pass, performed usually in January, is to remove most of last year's growth by "pre-pruning" the five foot canes into foot-long sticks (on Jose's left). Pre-pruning and brush removal constitute most of the time involved in pruning; the final pruning can be performed quickly.
The grapes from our Hammer Olsen C block were destemmed and the must macerated for three hours for the juice to pick up its lovely pink tinge as well as flavor and body from the skins. The juice was cool-fermented, then aged in seasoned oak. We can't imagine serving salmon without this wine. Gold Medal winner.