Usually most anything worthwhile has a “back story” with a lot of behind-the-scenes effort happening. Quality wines at Tassel Ridge Winery are no exception.
When growing the grapes that produce the wines, one of the first actions in the growing process involves pruning. “Vines are pruned to encourage quality grapes and support a healthy vine,” explained Adam, our Vineyard Manager. “We prune to allow the vine to support only what it can support, while still producing a quality grape.”
Pruning helps balance the grape load on each vine and helps to aid with proper sun exposure. “Before pruning, there is growth from the previous year, so it’s a mess. After pruning, approximately 75% of the canopy is cut off, leaving short spurs of two to five buds from the coming year’s production. That number may vary depending on variety,” according to Adam.
At Tassel Ridge, both long pruning and short pruning are completed on each vine. “Long pruning is removing all extra growth and trimming down designated fruiting spurs to approximately 200% of the final bud count. Short pruning is cutting the designated fruiting spurs down to the final bud count numbers,” he explained. “Typically, we do not start short pruning until April 15. That is the average last day for a hard freeze that may damage young shoots.”
Pruning can be a time-consuming and labor-intensive process. In 2015, Tassel Ridge purchased a V-Mech Mechanical Pruner. “The V-Mech mechanical pruner eliminates many hours of manual labor to cut and pull all of the extra vines out of the trellis,” Adam said.
This V-Mech pruner needs three people total to operate it—one to drive the tractor and two to operate the controls. There are two joysticks—one person controls the right side, while the other person controls the left side. “The operators are focused on keeping the pruner removing unwanted materials from the vines without hitting posts, plants, or stakes,” he added.
Tassel Ridge grows 11 cold climate grape varieties—six red and five white varieties. After planting is completed this spring, the four vineyards will total 72 acres with 40,000 vines. The Winery itself is located near Leighton, Iowa and sells its wines at the Winery and at over 400 retailers throughout the state of Iowa.
To see the V-Mech Mechanical Pruner in action, check out the video here.