“A day without sunshine is like, you know, night.”
The great comedian, actor and banjo player, Steve Martin, made that observation. And what better time to cite it than on the “shortest day” of 2015?
Winter solstice is the day with the fewest hours of sunlight during the whole year. In the Northern Hemisphere, it occurs today at 11:48 p.m., Eastern.
The late summer and early fall harvest season gets the most attention in the world of wine. But important activities take place in vineyards throughout the year, including the winter — and especially in vineyards where environmentally friendly practices are embraced.
The most important vineyard practice during the winter is pruning, and it requires highly skilled workers. The purpose is to guide the vine in certain directions and for particular purposes.
In Napa Valley, for example, much of this work is done by vineyard workers who are year-round employees.
Sometimes, pruning decisions are made for less-than-obvious reasons. For instance, some vintners may prune their Merlot vines a full two weeks later than normal in order to align the stages of growth with the later-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon, which is Merlot’s frequent blending partner.
So while winter may appear to be “quiet” in wine country, it’s really anything but. The work being done now will have a direct impact on the quantity and quality of the 2016 harvest.