It’s that special time of year when Mark Neal grabs his pruning shears and heads out into the vineyard with a big smile on his face. As a farmer first, he really enjoys working with his farming team from Jack Neal & Son, to kick off the pruning operations which will set up the vineyard for success in the new growing season. Some members of the team have been working with Mark for over 43 years, and every bit of that experience and expertise is needed for the challenging work of cane pruning.
In these photos Mark is pruning our favorite block at the Howell Mountain Estate Vineyard, also known as Block #7, the Legends block. From these vines we handcraft our exquisite 100% Cabernet Sauvignon Legend Label wines. Watching Mark and the team prune these vines is a beautiful and artistic process. Each vine requires a quick assessment to determine the vigor of the vine, which guides whether they leave 0 (for baby vines not yet in production) to 4 (for large healthy vines with more water holding capacity soils) canes that will later produce new shoots. Many variables go into these decisions including richness of soil, age of the vine, prior season learnings, weather, and rain, etc. With pruning, they are trying to balance the vine and the fruit load (yield) on each vine, along with the canopy. After pruning is completed, the team heads back into each row to tie down the canes horizontally, ensuring the effective distribution of the fruit as it grows.
The team’s dedication to our craft and precision in the vineyard creates the great Neal Family Vineyard wines that you love.