As wine fanciers, we know that spring is the season that growing begins, summer is the season that growing ramps up, and of course, autumn is harvest! But what about the coldest season—winter? After the fruit has been crushed, fermented, pressed and is patiently resting in barrels in the cellar, our crews look to the various Columbia Valley AVAs such as Red Mountain, Wahluke Slope, and Horse Heaven Hills, to prepare the vines for their winter slumber.
Before the bitter cold hits our lovely Washington wine country, the vineyard team from each of our growing partners heads out, focused on getting the vines ready to brace for whatever Mother Nature has planned. Prior to the vines entering dormancy, we want to ensure that pruning is complete so when the vines shut down no excessive growth occurs disrupting the much needed rest. Pruning is the process of going vine by vine and trimming the canes off and back to the cordon, which is the sturdy part of the vine that extends from the trunk. After pruning is complete and the temperatures start to drop, usually late November or early December, dormancy kicks in.
There are many reasons why a dormant period is beneficial to a vine—time to rest, killing off vineyard pests, and overgrowth control. When a vine begins to shut down and rest, it allows the vines to start their growth fresh with each new vintage. Instead of running a marathon year after year with no time to reset, pruned vines can give us everything we’re trusting and training them to do during the growing season. This also aids in growth management; a pause in growth allows intervention and control prior to a new growing season. After their dormancy, the vines are ready to kick it into gear and produce high-quality fruit that allows us to make our portfolio of wines.
Additionally, when the frigid temperatures set in, there is a reduction in the number of pests that attack our vines, specifically the ones that live within the soil and can attack the roots and disease the plant from below the surface. Various growers execute different practices that they have found to benefit their land along with the basic practice of pruning. Embracing the cold and preparing both the vine and the soil aid us in allowing the season to regulate the growth cycle.
As we near the end of the coldest season, it’s time to venture back out and assess the needs of the vineyards before growth begins. This enables our team to be prepared and anticipate practices that will need to be executed once temperatures rise and the ground thaws. And just like that, the cycle restarts.
While it may not seem as though winter is an important time for the lifecycle of a vine, it is one of the most important seasons. By having a period of rest, our vineyards are priming themselves to perform to their fullest potential producing flavorful and enticing fruit during the growing season. It is much like the winemaking process—when wine finishes fermentation and is transferred to barrel for aging, the moments of rest bring out fantastic characteristics. The enormous benefits of both the vines and the wine enjoying a period of rest is crucial to every bottle we create.