Surgical accuracy and lightning speed dazzled onlookers at the Mendocino County Vineyard Pruning Contest in Ukiah on February 17. The event, the 9th annual, drew top vineyard hands from throughout "America's Greenest Wine Region" to the competition site at Beckstoffer Vineyards.
In a 20-acre block of Cabernet Sauvignon at Beckstoffer's 101 Ranch, 39 hands competed on speed and the number and quality of their cuts, vying for a total of $2000 in prize money. The top six scorers advanced to the final heat.
Gabriel Navarro of Roederer Estate took the top prize, pruning thirty feet of cabernet sauvignon vines in 3 minutes, 52 seconds, and taking home $1000. Polito Martinez of Beckstoffer Vineyards took second, winning $500. Third to finish was Jorge Medina of Vimark Vineyards, and fourth went to Samuel Campos, also of Vimark. They won $300 and $200, respectively. All winners received commemorative plaques and a prize package of gifts from local sponsors.
"There are over 16,000 acres of winegrapes in Mendocino County, and virtually all are pruned by hand," says Rich Schaefers, General Manager and Viticulturist for Beckstoffer Vineyards. "The job represents in the neighborhood of $2.3 million dollars and is essentially completed in a time frame of less than three months. The skills that these guys bring to the table are not easily learned. This contest is one of the best ways we know of to showcase their work."
Because each snip of the pruners determines how a grapevine will produce in current, and future, years, pruning is one of the key vineyard operations.
The Mendocino Winegrape & Wine Commission, host of the competition, is an alliance of 84 wineries and 343 winegrape growers in Mendocino County. In addition to the pruning competition, MWWC's 2010 efforts will include educational seminars such as selling bulk wine, public relations ideas for wineries, and how to use social media.
The region is at the forefront of the sustainable, organic, Biodynamic and fish friendly farming movements.