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Lake County Winegrape Commission to host first regional pruning school for vineyard workers

This winter, the winegrowers and vineyard workers of Lake County, California, will enrol in the first regional pruning school of its kind aimed at a whole wine region hosted by the Lake County Winegrape Commission. 

The course will be taught by the masters of vineyard management, Simonit & Sirch, and their Master Pruner, Jacopo Miolo. Lake County sits north of California’s most famed region, the Napa Valley, but the techniques being taught by Miolo (in both English and Spanish) are employed at an impressive list of wineries. Their client list includes some of the world’s most renowned producers; Château d‘Yquem, Chateau Latour, and Roederer, among others. In  Napa, names like Corison, Diamond Creek, Shafer Vineyards, and Spottswoode are clients of Simonit & Sirch.

The Lake County Pruning School will include a theoretical introductory online lesson and three days of practical hands-on classes in the vineyard — two days during the winter for vine pruning and one day during the spring for shoot thinning. The program will provide in-depth fundamental principles applicable to all grapevine training systems and the core elements of the Simonit & Sirch pruning philosophy, focusing on controlled branching, vascular flow, cuts and crown buds, and protective spare wood.

The educational program focuses on vine health and maximising resilience to things like pests and an ongoing concern in California; drought. Miolo will instruct the growers on vine sap flow and how elements of the vines’ protective nature can be maximised for the benefit of fruit consistency and the longer-term heartiness of the vines. The bilingual instruction will ensure that those in the rows doing the work are getting the content directly from Miolo.

‘This is a win-win situation for the wine industry and our vineyard workforce,’ says  Pedro Rubio, General Manager for Beckstoffer Vineyards Red Hills. ‘The pruning school attendees will benefit by gaining hands-on experience from highly trained instructors with decades of experience. Most importantly, the attendees gain knowledge and self-confidence, which will be passed along to others in the community and industry. Other practices like suckering, shoot thinning, leaf removal, cluster thinning, etc., are equally important tasks during the growing season. However, pruning is hands-down the most impactful farming practice on the vine.’

In addition to the impact on the vineyard teams, adapting these practices more broadly will lift the region’s overall climate resilience and, with consistent application, the quality of wines they’re able to grow. “This class allows us to teach our vineyard workers proven techniques. This will eventually lead to us becoming a more sustainable growing region by reducing vine diseases and extending vineyard lifespans. Ultimately leading to higher-quality wine,” says Jonathan Walters, General Manager of the Brassfield Estate Winery and Chair of the Lake County Winegrape Commission.

The pruning school is part of a three-year program put on by the Lake County Winegrape Commission, and Miolo’s aim is that the content he teaches over these three days can quickly be passed on by those in the vineyards to their crews and co-workers. 

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