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Mar 21, 2023 • 2 min read

How to manage a vineyard in the winter (plus a cute dog pic!)

News alert: It snows here. Sometimes a lot, sometimes a little. Cold temperatures and winds from Lake Michigan cause blowing and drifting and a weather phenomenon called “Lake Effect”.

This snow globe might not be what you picture when you think of wine country, but much like other wine regions on the 45th parallel, we grow great grapes. Just with a bit more of the white stuff.

And this time of year, when the vines are dormant and the skies are gray, there is plenty of activity in the vineyard. If you’re driving along the backroads of Leelanau County, you many see 3-5 hardy souls bundled up, lopers and shears in hand, pruning the vines.

Why do we prune? By removing part of the past season's growth we strengthen the vine. A strong vine, yielding a smaller crop, grows better grapes. In turn, we can make better wines.

So each day throughout the winter, we prune and we cross our fingers that temperatures don’t dip too far below 0. To compete with Michigan’s unpredictable winters, we implement a "double pruning " method.

This is how it works:

During the first round of pruning, one or two canes (last year's new shoots) are wrapped around the lowest wire to develop what is called the cordon. Typically the rest of the canes are cut so that only two buds remain.

But in the double pruning method, all the canes are left long and standing upright. This leaves many extra buds on the plant, enough to get through winter and see how many survived. We can avoid crop loss by adjusting how many buds we leave when we do the final pruning.

Each day through January, and February, and past the middle of March, our Vineyard Manger Megan, her team, and two faithful pups go through these motions, best described in a past writing by our founder, Larry Mawby:

"They cut, pull brush and make piles until the vines square their shoulders, stiffen their backs, stand ready in their rows. They wait in the winter night, wait for the sun and the rain, the warmth of early spring mornings, the heat of summer afternoons, the cool evenings of autumn. Another year, another crop."

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