Nip/Tuck: Grapevine Surgeons, Rausse and Hill


Gabrielle Rausse

 Gabrielle Rausse and Chris Hill, a tag team extraordinaire, taught our  Dormant Vine Pruning class Saturday  at Piedmont Virginia Community College.  Both are experts in the field of viticulture with decades of experience between them. Even though their theories sometimes differed as did their teaching style, their mutual admiration was palpable. They discussed the pros and cons of irrigation and whether to allow the roots to strengthen by reaching  deep into the soil for hydration.  Chris was personable,  very straight forward and hands on, while Gabrielle lapsed into stories of his personal experiences that literally had us rolling!

 I think there is a potential book here, perhaps  Gabrielleisms: Wine and Wisdom by Gabrielle Rausse!…or Gabrielle Walks the Vine!  …but I get to write it!  Listen to Gabrielle explain about growing the best grapes and making wine in Virginia.  It sounds a little quiet in the beginning, but listen carefully to the end; he tells an interesting story about a winemaker at Afton Mountain Vineyards and her excellent results!

In this video clip, Chris demonstrates “vigor” in a grapevine starting from a tiny green shoot!

Grapes are  only produced on one year old wood and pruned leaving two to three buds.  We were introduced to cane pruning and spur pruning, single trunk and two trunks, cordons and buds.

We had an incredibly beautiful day in Virginia, starting off a bit windy and brisk. We walked through vineyards on the Kluge Estate, partly owned by two different banks and marked by pink ribbons.  Sections had been neglected and we were able to see first hand how mismanaged vines look. Poor vines!

Nodes, shoots, spurs and canes were the topics of the day. Loppers and bypass-pruners in hand, we all had an opportunity to put our new limited  knowledge to the test on vines intended for sparkling wine.  Chris and Gabrielle critiqued our work and corrected our mistakes. We were taught about uniformity and different ways of training the vines. All in all, an excellent class!  We learned quickly and did a little pruning at Blenheim Vineyards as well.  Of course, the finale was wine tasting at Blenheim poured by Gabrielle’s son Peter. Finally,  a quick stop at Kluge for a case of Albemarle Simply Red to round out a perfect day!

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