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Wine Maker Pruning Vineyard Ahead of Growing Season
Clipping away last year's grape vine growth ahead of spring is a time consuming process. But it's something Mark Lounsberry, owner, of Hill Prairie Winery, says must be done. "If i didn't do anything, all these would grow and then you would have canes that would soon just be a tangled mess and then it's shaded and doesn't produce fruit and what fruit it produces, it doesn't ripen very well," said Lounsberry. The Oakford vineyard is nine acres in size, which makes pruning a big job. "It's a lot of hand work because we're not like the mega vineyards like you would see out in the wine regions in california where they can mechanize a lot of things they do. So most of what we do here is by hand," Lounsberry said. Even after a bitterly cold and snowy winter, Lounsberry says the vines are still in good shape. "Even though it got extremely cold, part of why we're able to be successful now versus fifty years ago is the hybridization of some of these varieites that can stand the cold weather. The issue usually is in spring when it warms up for a few weeks then you have an extended cold period below freezing then that's when you see most of your damage," said Lounsberry. The snow melt is a good thing for the crop. "They do need to recharge. After they raise a crop, they need to rest and gather nutrients and moisture so the winter we had has probaby done more good than harm because of the snow cover and the moisture that's gone into the soil," said Lounsberry. During growing season, the ideal weather condition for grapes is hot and dry. "Grape vines don't need a lot of moisture, they're a scavenger plant and they're like you think of them as a miniature tree. They have a really extensive root system," said Lounsberry. Unlike other crops, when it comes to grapes, more isn't better, "Because if you get too much it affects the quality so you manage the vine for the quality that you want so that means sometimes you reduce crop on purpose," Lounsberry said. The vineyard sits on a farm that has been in Lounsberry's family since the 1830's, but in 1999,the farm became more than just row crops when Lounseberry began growing grapes. "It's been a very rewarding and interesting thing for me to do. You know, I don't get rich, I make a living. Work every day and I'm happy to do that," said Lounsberry. Typically, grape harvest is from mid-August through the end of September, but that can change depending on the weather.Wednesday, April 23 2014, 11:23 AM CDT