I brought in a few canes from the Apple House vineyard after that last cold spell: Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Chardonnay. For two and half days I let them warm up sitting in a vase of water on the kitchen floor. If several nights of minus 15 Celsius or thereabouts, had damaged the buds we would soon know.
When you first bring in the sample canes the buds look green if sliced open but that is totally misleading. They freeze green like the Green Giant’s peas.
However, after a couple of warm days in the house and sitting in water the truth will be know. If the buds have been hurt by the cold they will be brown, or sometimes the primary bud is brown but the secondary is still green. With a hybrid grape that secondary will sometimes produce fruit but in our vinifera (fine European varieties) you need the primary to produce fruit.
The great news is that virtually every bud sliced open carefully, with a sharp blade, was bright green. Hurray!
This means that we can try to keep many of the fruit canes already in the trellises and not have to rely on the ones we have buried, although we will not prune those off until we are sure we have survived late spring frosts.
The advantages are two-fold. First, the vines should be much more productive than usual, maybe 1.5 times more. Second, they should bud out a bit earlier, giving us a ripening advantage as well, especially for us by the lake.
So Dave Frederick and I spent an hour or so yesterday in the vineyard strategizing about how best to prune, so that we can begin the process this week. We have decided to primarily spur prune and occasionally replace a cordon with an above the ground cane from last year. It will be a little slower than our normal method because each vine will take a little more thought. However, the results could be great. The first time in the last 16 years or so that we have been able to do this. A great way to start the 2017 vintage off.