This wine life continues to excite us with new types of adventures. Most recently, Jesse and Luke joined Teutonic Wine Company for a few days of pruning at their flagship Alsea vineyard located only 22 short miles from the Pacific coastline.
If we had stayed in Europe, we’d most certainly be on a pruning crew in the Mosel. Here in the U.S., this task is usually designated just for permanent vineyard crews. Some winemakers even seemed surprised when Luke asked them if they could use an extra set of cellar boots on the ground for pruning. Fortunately, Barnaby and Olga Tuttle of Teutonic have many European sensibilities about them and were more than happy to have us two greenhorns tag along to prune their unique coastal Pinot Noir vineyard, Alsea. Located on Honey Grove Farm, the small Alsea block was planted in 2005. Due to the Tuttle’s stewardship mentality and low input farming, their assorted clones of Pinot Noir are thriving in this unconventional environment. They have reintroduced native species for ground cover and put in two Biodynamic beehives to spread the plant love.
During this time of year in the northern hemisphere, most casual cellar hands have migrated south for vintage in the southern hemisphere. With the northern hemisphere wines safely in barrel, tank or bottle, work leaves the cellar and begins in the vineyard. A few months after harvest, when winemakers are getting some much needed rest and winery dogs are sleeping by fires at home, vines also go into a state of dormancy. During this stage, viticulturists, vineyard crews and jack-of-all trades sorts like Barnaby and Olga Tuttle brave the cold outside for pruning. Pruning is necessary to ensure the grape vines will follow the viticulturalist’s chosen trellising system during the next fruiting season, allowing a grower to control yield & vigor. The first step is cutting away most of the dried canes that held leaves and fruit from the last season. Next, the healthiest of remaining canes are slowly wrapped around the lowest load-bearing wire.
Pruning is a slow but methodical process that is almost therapeutic. Your mind and body fall into a rhythm, vine after vine, row after row. You will feel the good day’s work. In our case, as dusk fell, Barnaby said that we were all in need of some “Vitamin R,” so we went to the local market and picked up some tall boys of Rainier. Being a 2 hour drive from Portland, we all stayed overnight in the small Alsea Valley Bed and Breakfast trading wine stories. Although our time pruning with the Tuttles was short, it was a confirmation that someday we would like our own vines, where we too can hire some greenhorns.