January in the Vineyard: A Time for Vine ‘Maintenance’

Spring and autumn tend to be the most visibly busy seasons on ranches and farms around the world.

After months of cold weather, spring brings more moderate temperatures. It’s the season when we see the birth of calves, foals and other animals. And color begins to appear on trees, grapevines and other plants.

Autumn is the harvest season, when wine grapes and other fruits are picked. Then as the temperatures begin to lower and the hours of daylight lessen, the leaves on certain types of trees turn brilliant hues of gold, red and orange.

Yet as busy and diverse as those seasons are, there’s still plenty of activity in the vineyards during the winter and summer months. Growing grapes that will be transformed into wine is a year-round endeavor. There never is time to simply sit back and ignore the vineyard.

All this year, we’ll devote the first blog of each month to what’s happening in the vineyard — or more precisely, what’s happening with the vines.

The timing may vary slightly from region to region, but the order of the work is basically the same.

So here we are in January, traditionally the second-coldest month of the year in California’s Napa Valley — but only by a degree compared to December. While the vines are not completely dormant, they’re still in what some vintners call the “recovery phase” from the 2020 harvest.

But there’s still plenty of work to be done in the vineyard. On most estates, each vine is pruned to two fruiting canes, and those canes are then tied down neatly to a low wire.

As those who look after the vineyards walk between the rows of vines, they’ll also replace any broken grape stakes, and repair and tighten the trellis wires that will support the 2021 crop

Some other work may be necessitated should the winter rains come all at once, but generally speaking, January is a month for vineyard “maintenance.” Just like a car, a vineyard requires year-round attention in order for optimum performance to be achieved.

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