Vines are one of the most important parts of the winemaking process. That might sound simplistic, but without good vines that are well taken care of my job would be a lot harder. We’re fortunate at Kendall-Jackson to have amazing vineyard teams who are really dedicated to their craft. And right now they are working hard.
We’re just about finished with bloom in most places on the North Coast. Some of the cooler spots I’ve visited in Mendocino County are still finishing bloom, as are ranches in West Sonoma County. Usually, right up to the beginning of bloom is the time for suckering. In terms of the vineyard lifecycle, we prune the vines in the winter. We wait for budbreak and the young shoots to start growing, and then we come in and sucker.
Suckering allows us to regulate the grape vine’s growth for quality wine production. In a nutshell, suckering involves removing secondary shoots that may push out from the vine and interfere with the vine balance by increasing the number of grape clusters beyond what we think should grow.
The suckers are part of the safety mechanisms that are built into a grapevine that help ensure its survival in adverse weather and other hard conditions, including neglect. One of these built-in security systems is in the buds that produce growing shoots every year.
On a grape vine each bud is not a solitary unit, rather a compound one where there is a primary and two secondary buds. In most cases, the secondary buds do not push unless the primary bud has been damaged (hence the reference as a safety measure).
But, where there is sufficient vigor in the soil and adequate moisture, we do see some secondary buds pushing out. Also, those that don’t push remain buried in the older wood and will often push in later years. We have been going through the vineyard blocks and removing all of these unwanted shoots, or suckers, from the vines.
Feel free to post any questions or comments you might have. Cheers!