In the vineyard

Agriculture as art

I've often said that what I find most wonderful about wine and wine making is that it represents the intersection of art and agriculture. This changed for me when I was able to witness my brother, a vineyard manager, at work. It turns out, that the agriculture of wine IS art. Following are notes from a recent trip to the vineyard he cares for.

vines in waiting
In California, if you want to experience the way nature lifts itself up out of winter's embrace, visit a vineyard in late February. In many ways it is a barren time of year -- too early to predict what the season may be like, the vines rising and sprawling haphazardly like forgotten dreams. It's weeks before bud break, which is perhaps why it feels such an essential transition. This is when pruning takes place. It is a vineyard manager's annual blank canvas, and the anticipation and the potential of it all is breathtaking.  

Pruning a vineyard is grueling work, but to watch a seasoned pruner, is like watching a ballet. In one smooth movement, the worker cuts the previous year's growth, and pulls it away, all the while making critical decisions about the future harvest. With equal parts physical strength and tenderness, the pruner creates the delicate balance between quality and yield. Both training the vines and creating renewal spurs for a new season of growth take place during pruning. The wine you will eventually bottle, is in many ways determined at this time.

When we say our goodbyes, I see his hands. They are stained with the pallet of his art. It is exhilarating to watch any craftsman preform, and I leave his vineyard feeling ready for new growth.


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