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Winemaker's Journal — Vineyard spring

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Vineyard pruning

Spring is a busy time in the Northwest as receding snow and frigid weather demand that all that's been set aside the past few months be done right now.

Vintners who grow their own grapes have much to do outside in their vineyards preparing for the new crop of grapes as well as in their cellars preparing to bottle the previous year's wine.

My weekends are now spent trimming vines back to a couple promising fruit buds, training and tying young whips to trellis wires and checking drip irrigation lines. My tiny vineyard has six rows of about 20 vines each, so it's not a monumental task. I try to do a row or two at a time.

When the sun is shining as it has the past couple of weekends, it's extremely pleasant work. I'm still learning which canes to leave, which to cut back; which will be productive, which will provide a healthy cordon to hang the future.

Cellar work right now requires fewer big decisions. My first task was to take hundreds of empty wine bottles to the dump. I've been saving and collecting bottles for years until my small basement/wine cellar. It was so cluttered I had little room to work. I saved just what I needed to bottle what I have aging from 2012 and 2013.

Next came racking all of my wine from one carboy to another to get it off the sediment that precipitates over the past months in then container. I use 5-gallon glass carboys rather than barrels because my production is small and I like to make several wine varieties. This is a good time to taste the wines to see how they're coming along. So far so good.

The 2013 red wines also contained oak chips to mimmic the flavors that come from barrel aging. The chips can add flavor fast, so it's important to remove them after a couple months.

The 2012 reds and few gallons of 2013 whites are now ready for bottling. I'll get to that a few weeks later this spring.