Pruning Vines in the Desert

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When I went out to photograph Jeff Hendricks from Page Springs Cellars pruning his House Mountain Vineyard, I had a lot of questions. By the time we wrapped, he had answered all of them.

Here are some of the insights he offered me as he worked with his crew.

We’re close to Sedona – is there a name for this wine growing region?
I would call the region “Verde Valley” or sometimes we’re called “Northern Arizona”. We don’t have an AVA here yet, and maybe never will.

What types of grapes are you growing here?
Pinot Noir is what I’m pruning now, but we also grow Petite Syrah, Counoise, Teroldego, Syrah and Grenache.

Jeff Hendricks VineyardSyrah, Grenache and Petite Syrah have always done well here but Counoise, Pinot and Teroldego are guesses based on varietal data and things like that. We’re still in an experimentation phase, some folks are having great luck with Italian varietals and we also have a short list of tried and true based on a dozen years of data which isn’t much.

You’re not exactly in “wine country”, how do you find people to work the vineyard?
We hold workshops generally and place as much attention on educating as we do on utilizing volunteer help. It’s important to me to try and move Arizona wine forward in any way I can, and getting people involved in the process usually ignites a little fire inside people that results in more workshops and involvement in this emerging industry. There’s nothing like seeing the first step (farming) through the last step (drinking wine). These same people that you see here pruning will come bottle and help in the cellar too.

When you’re pruning, do you have a special type of trellising?
Most of us in the state use a very common method called VSP, or Vertical Shoot Positioning, but there’s some others out there I’m sure. I would guess that 99% of the planted acres in Arizona are using VSP.