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How to Prune Grapevines

Updated on July 1, 2015
Carol Reed profile image

Carol graduated from Indian Hills C.C. with an AAS in H.I.T and an AA in Arts & Science. A Social Media Booster for Wine Diamonds Film.

Pruning Norton Cynthiana in a Vineyard in Norwalk, Iowa

Soon to be sixty year old, Mike Van Natta, shows us how we need to prune grape vines. I like the comparison he uses when he says, “Pruning is like cutting hair.” I asked him if all varieties are trimmed the same. He said, “No. Depends upon the grape species. Some are vigorous, they require more pruning to prevent over cropping which would result in a poorer quality of wine. Norton is a vigorous plant.” The true name is Norton Cynthiana. This is one of the oldest cultivated American wine grapes.

Can you guess what the annoying noise in the back ground is? I have visited this vineyard for the past three years during netting, the harvest season and this past pruning season. Throughout each experience this metal on metal sound has greeted us as the wind blew. My very first visit to this vineyard picking these grapes, I thought, wow…this would make a great sound for the next scary movie. I love movies so my imagination took off. At a distance, I thought the noise was a farm of the squealing pigs, then closer, I had a movie play out in my head but I will not go into this now, maybe in a story I write in the future. At the end of the last row of Norton Grapes, the mystery was solved. Was an old rusty windmill your guess? That is exactly what haunts this vineyard.

Harvest Time

Harvesting the Norton Grapes
Harvesting the Norton Grapes | Source

Harvest Fun

The first week in October seems to be prime time for picking Norton Cynthiana in Iowa. This is where I have had the privilege of celebrating my birthday these past three years, during harvest season. I can’t think of anything better but a tradition of enjoying nature with friends and family, picking grapes that will soon be a full body red wine and serenaded by the local tarnished wind mill.

Bunch of Grapes

The First Week in October Has Been a Great Time to Pick Norton Grapes.
The First Week in October Has Been a Great Time to Pick Norton Grapes. | Source

Grapes Are Like People

After picking grapes for the past three years, I looked at them from a different perspective. I have noticed that grapes are like people. They start out small like babies and grow. Their skins start out smooth. As they mature, they may have spots that look a bit like freckles, though most remain blemish- free. If not picked in a timely matter they may turn into a raisin like an elderly person’s wrinkled skin or may tear easily. At the end, if the grapes are still on the vines past the raisin transition they turn into a mummified state.

Fill Crusher / Destemmer

Separate the Stems From the Grapes
Separate the Stems From the Grapes | Source

Out With the Stems

Now for the real work, loading the crusher /destemmer. This separates the stems from the grapes and crushes the grapes. We then move the red grapes into barrels and ferment with skins attached to abstract color, flavor and tannins. Their turn in the press comes after fermentation. White grapes go through the crusher/ destemmer but unlike red grapes they go through the press before the fermentation process. They do not need skin contact.

Press The Grapes

Hookup Water to Press & Watch the Juice Run.
Hookup Water to Press & Watch the Juice Run. | Source

Free Run

Juice | Source

Juice Makes Future Wine

Free run is the juice that runs from the grapes poured into the press before actually pressing the grapes.

Time to Bottle The Wine

Bottle and Then Cork
Bottle and Then Cork | Source

Red Verses White, Dry verses Sweet

What type of wine do you prefer?

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Nearwood Winery Labels

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Cap, Label & Marketing
Cap, Label & Marketing
Cap, Label & Marketing | Source

Wine Stock is Growing

Mike Van Natta, tried his hand at homemade wine and growing grapes in Iowa during a time when vineyards were just talk in the state. His residency forced him to relocate and his career as a physician prospered. His love for science and his path in life circled allowing him an opportunity of planting a small vineyard and opening a winery and tasting room in his small town. His vineyard is three years old now and Nearwood Winery Tasting Room celebrated their first year in business the end of November, 2013.

Mike is the winemaker and his master pieces consist of dry red wines; Leo Millot, Storybook made from the Norton grape and Raceway red made from the De Chaunac grapes. His dry whites are Edelweiss and Thumbs up. Thumbs up is produced from the Seyval Blanc. Nearwood Winery’s sweet red wines are called Storybook Sweet which is made from the Cynthiana Norton and Tenspeed Sweet made from the De Chaunac. They carry an Edelweiss Semi-sweet. Their white sweets are Speedway Sweet produced from Seyval Blanc, Wayward Girl prepared from their Edelweiss and a blush named Rosie made from Frontenac Gris. Most of their wines have a unique story behind them. Eleven new varieties are in the tanks awaiting bottles for 2013 vintage.

Nearwood Winery Tasting Room (Friends & family painted on glasses.)

Click thumbnail to view full-size
"Where Friends & Family Gather & Leave With A Smile."
"Where Friends & Family Gather & Leave With A Smile."
"Where Friends & Family Gather & Leave With A Smile." | Source

Midwest Wineries & Vineyards

The number of wineries in Iowa is always changing, as of 2011 the count was 104 and 1,200 acres in grapes.

On my journey back from the east coast last week I had the opportunity to stop at a few wineries, some small some large. Wineries are in North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Illinois, plus many other states.

This weekend I accompanied Mike at the “2014 Midwest Grape & Wine + Craft Brew Conference” in St. Charles, Missouri. This is where I learned, Indian has seventy-three wineries, Nebraska has twenty-eight and one hundred-ninety-seven wineries are in Ohio. This shows to me the west coast is not the only place growing grapes and after trying a variety of midwest wines they are not the only ones with great cultivars.

Nearwood Winery & Tasting Room

210 East Robinson, Knoxville, Iowa 50138:
210 East Robinson Street, Knoxville, IA 50138, USA

get directions

Nearwood Winery Tasting Room: "A place where family & friends gather & leave smiling."

Rate Nearwood Winery Tasting Room

5 out of 5 stars from 1 rating of Nearwood Winery Tasting Room Establishment

Leo's Birds: A Fictional Novel by Michael Van Natta

(This isn't anything to do with vines or wine) but this book is written by a winemaker / winery owner.

From the beginning to the end.

From Vines to Wines, 5th Edition: The Complete Guide to Growing Grapes and Making Your Own Wine
From Vines to Wines, 5th Edition: The Complete Guide to Growing Grapes and Making Your Own Wine

An Extensive Guide from the beginning to the end; starting with the vine and finishing with the wine.



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      4 years ago

      Exceptional post: Loved the video and the explanation of the eerie background sounds. This reads as a simple primer on making wine from start to finish and gives a great understanding of the whole process. You can see why people think wine is a romantic notion!

    • profile image

      Nearwood Winery 

      4 years ago

      Nearwood Winery Tasting Room appreciates the Facebook likes. If you haven’t had a chance to visit and you’re in our neighborhood, feel free to pay us a visit and become our friend. Be safe in your travels and if you drink, always have your designated driver at the wheel. Thank-you.


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