Guest Blog from Laetitia Viticulturist, Dave Terry: Dormant Pruning

Originally from New Mexico, Dave Terry is a Graduate of the Masters Program of Viticulture and Enology at CSU Fresno.  His industry work includes stints at Ciel du Cheval in West Richland, Washington and Wild Horse in Paso Robles, California.  He began work as one of our viticulturists last year and we are lucky to have him.  He is published in the American Journal of Enology and Viticulture and he is this week’s guest blogger.

We recently began the time consuming process of dormant pruning our vines.  Because we grow Pinot noir, which is arguably one of the most genetically unstable and difficult grape varieties to grow and maintain, dormant pruning is crucial to our wine growing process and to the longevity of the vineyard.  The art of dormant pruning dates back to at least 2200 BC when the Greeks were developing highly specialized viticulture techniques.  Like we do now as they did then, at least to a certain extent, grapevines are trellised, trained and dormant pruned in order to maintain form and constrain the natural vigor of the grapevine.  However, today, we now realize that when done properly dormant pruning can optimize fruit production and fruit quality by balancing the grapevine (equilibrium between leaf area to crop weight) and ameliorating the canopy microclimate (i.e. increasing light penetration into the fruiting zone).  Dormant pruning gives us the ability to control the amount of fruit and leaf area on a vine and its interaction with the surrounding climate.  We believe that our pruning techniques impart darker color, softer tannins, balanced acids, and favorable varietal characteristics into the Pinot grapes; providing a solid foundation for the winemaking process by Eric and his crew.  We accomplish vine balance and a healthy microclimate by either spur pruning, where we retain a predetermined number of 2 to 3 bud spurs along the length of the cordon or cane pruning, where we retain several 8 to 10 bud dormant canes.  After a vine is complete, the removed canes are placed in the middle of a row and later mowed and incorporated into the soil. Our pruning crew is made up of individuals who have worked with our vines for many years and they can prune about 25 acres per day.  We should be finished pruning by mid-February and the vines will bud break by mid-March.

So next time you are sipping on a glass of wine at Laetitia, step out of the tasting room and peer over the vineyard and soak up the beginnings of the 2013 vintage.  It’s going to be pretty great.

If you want to learn more about pruning hands on, join us for a half-day pruning seminar on Saturday, February 23rd from 10AM-2PM.  VP Vineyard Operations, Lino Bozzano will take us out in the vineyard and demonstrate the pruning techniques used at Laetitia and answer any pruning related questions you might have.  Following the demonstration and hands on pruning, we will head back to the Laetitia Press Room for lunch and wine.  $35 PP/$25 for Wine Club Members.

For reservations call 805.474.7641 or email

Dave Terry, Laetitia Viticulturist

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