Winter Is Pruning Season at Mount Salem Vineyards

To wine drinkers, there’s no time like the winter to curl up in front of a warm fireplace with a glass and watch the drifting snow in the New Jersey chill.

But to vineyard managers, winter is a time that’s anything but relaxing. It’s actually when the first and most important part of the winemaking process takes place, as we prune our grape vines from early January through late March.

Pruning is the cutting and removal of all plant tissue that is not essential to the grape vine’s health in the coming year. This may sound simple, but it requires a different method for every variety and climate. Pruning maintains the vine’s health and encourages it to produce the ideal amount of grapes each year, and without it, the results can be disastrous – both grape (and wine) quality and quantity will suffer.

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Like all that’s important, though, it doesn’t come easy, even to our experienced team who are expert pruners, and who are now pruning a whopping five vineyards in Hunterdon County. One experienced person can prune just about one acre per week as they battle the cold elements.

This year, we started pruning even earlier – during the week after Christmas – due to the mild weather, as we wanted to both avoid the possibility of the weather getting much colder, making our pruning difficult or impossible, as well as damage to vines due to early budbreak.

Next time you’re escaping the cold with a glass of one of our wines, just remember the cold we face each winter to create it. But it’s always worth it in the end, when we open that first bottle and taste the results of what a season of strategized pruning can accomplish.

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