During the time of the growing season when the vines are dormant, their care is of the utmost importance. There's basically no more important process to determine grape quality and vine health than pruning: the process by which the grapevines are balanced. This process runs between November and March of each year and involves long and careful sessions in the winter vineyard.
Pruning following the VSP (vertical shoot positioning) model, the one we use in our vineyards in The Brogue, basically happens in four stages:
The various vines at our Stewartstown vineyard have, in the past, been pruned following different methods, including these 3:
Last year's growth on each vine determines this year's buds, the potential for the whole upcoming growing season. If unprotected buds are killed by spring frosts, it's unlikely that the vines will produce many useful winegrapes at all; secondary shoots ripen later than primary ones. So the frost mitigation aspect of pruning is really important.
The pruner in the vineyard is an important decision-maker. Sometimes growth from previous years needs to be beaten down, and other times growth needs to be encouraged from a newer location, possibly from further down on the vine. Carl likens grape-growing year to a tightrope walk: A lot needs to go right, in order for the highest-quality fruit to result. There's a lot riding on these taut wires. But, like the tightrope walker, we're also always looking ahead, eager to keep the balance which will bring success for the vintage ahead.