TO INFINITY A pruned vineyard, like this one at the corner of Westside and Mill Creek roads, is a sign of midwinter

by Pierre Ratte

During winter months, throughout Healdsburg’s countryside, one is likely to find pruned vineyards. The clippings are laid on rows of green cover-crops recharging the soil, later turning mustard yellow or radish white.

In dark, foggy and cold winter morning conditions, field hands clip canes on vines—about 100 million clips in Sonoma County. Those clips will bring forth spring’s bud break, summer’s veraison and fall’s harvest, to make wine.

Vineyards don’t prune themselves, and resolutions don’t last without work. And so, another year turns. It’s 2024; almost a quarter of the way through the 21st century. Here’s to wishing resolutions longevity, at least past January!

Fun facts: Using rough calculations and assumptions, Sonoma County’s vineyard workers clip 100 million canes—assuming GDC plantings with wider rows and vine spacing, approximately 50,000 acres of vineyard in the county, 100 vines per acre and 20 canes per vine equals 100 million cane clippings.

A GDC trellis is a Geneva Double Curtain; it has two parallel wires separated by 1-1.5 feet in height with a single cane trellised to each wire in two directions. Other trellising systems are: Smart-Dyson, Scott Henry, U-Shaped, High Bilateral Cordon, Head Trained or Umbrella Kniffin, and VSP Vertical Shoot Position.

Bud break, depending on weather and varietal, occurs in March. Veraison, the French/English word for the moment when grapes’ green berries begin to show color, occurs in July and August.

During the 1940s, German prisoners of war worked in Sonoma County’s vineyards and orchards. A camp with approximately 1,000 Germans was located just outside Windsor. Pay to the prisoners for farm labor was about $1 per day; average farm labor costs were about $4 per day.

The prisoners wore regular-looking clothes with a “P W” stencil. Reportedly, Rommel’s army men were more polite than the German U-boat POWs.

Windsor was named by an English pony express rider, Hiram Lewis, after the pastoral beauty surrounding Windsor Castle.

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