What is Suckering? Details From Our Monte Bello Vineyards

Blog Post

Suckering usually takes place in late Spring at our Monte Bello vineyards, where the cooler climate delays the process by a few weeks compared to other California wineries. This important process is vital to the success of our vines, and subsequent wines, and can take up to six weeks to finish. To learn more about suckering and our vineyard management, read on:

Vine Suckering: A Vineyard Definition

According to Kyle Theriot, our Director of Monte Bello Vineyard Operations, suckering is a key part of vineyard management.

Suckering at Monte Bello Vineyards.

Following bud-break, after the weather warms up, there is a rapid acceleration of shoot growth. Suckering involves removing weak, sick, or poorly located vine shoots. These shoots are then clipped off from the vines to make room for healthy shoots to fully develop. Shoots are snipped when:

  1. There are two or more buds on one vine node.
  2. The buds are growing from the trunk.
  3. The buds are weak, sick, or dying.
Suckering at Monte Bello Vineyards.

The thinning of the vines through the suckering process helps to produce quality grapes. The reasons for suckering to produce better vines include:

  • Getting the vines the nutrients and energy they need. Buds growing from the base or too close to other viable buds take away needed energy.
  • Protecting vines from harmful disease. Suckering also helps avoid issues with mildew, shatter, and disease on the vines.
  • Higher concentration of flavors and quality. Grape quality improves from fewer clusters competing with each other.
Suckering at Monte Bello Vineyards.

Suckering Grape Vines By Hand

Some larger vineyards prefer to use selective herbicides or machinery to manage the suckering process, but at Ridge we complete the process by hand. However, with around 200 tons of grapes harvested yearly from our Monte Bello vineyards, it takes our team up to a month and a half to finish suckering the vines.

Workers typically work 40 hour work weeks, starting at 6 AM and finishing around 2 PM. Our team is comprised of 12 full times vineyard workers and eight part time workers. Some of these workers have been part of the team for decades, bringing historical knowledge as well as expertise to their work. And with so many old vines in our vineyards, this knowledge is key.

Suckering at Monte Bello Vineyards.

What’s Left in the Vineyard

The waste left behind after suckering a vineyard (leaves, buds, and other organic matter) is then left in the vineyard to become part of the compost. This natural process is just one of the many ways we aim for sustainability and organic best-practices within our vineyards. To learn more, visit our resource on Organic Practices at Ridge.


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