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Pruning Grapevines at Rocklands Farm Winery & Market

TJ Fleming, winemaker and viticulturist

TJ Fleming, winemaker and viticulturist

Our visit to Rocklands Farm Market & Winery in Montgomery County, Maryland included a special grapevine pruning event attended by several members of the Church of the Advent in Columbia Heights, Washington D.C. Prior to our visit to the vineyards with TJ Fleming, vineyardist and winemaker, he said that he just became interested in making wine. TJ was a middle school science teacher and studied Enology and Viticulture  through the UC Davis online wine program.

After everyone arrived at Rocklands, TJ led us to the vineyard planted with Chardonnay where he spoke about the pre-pruning of the grapevines. We were instructed to cut the vines in the middle between the top two wires of the trellis system. TJ discussed why grape growers prune the grapevines. He pointed out that pruning improves the quality of the grapes. Pruning also limits disease by reducing the large canopy that vines are prone to develop. Pruning balances the canopy that can grow very large during the warm summer months.
TJ’s discussion of pruning led him to the question, “Why does God prune?” TJ’s thoughtful answer included increasing spirituality by getting rid of disease in branches that do not bear fruit. God prunes us to love one another and abide in Him. After discussing God’s way of pruning, TJ read John 15. The themes presented included: God is the vinedresser and Jesus is the vine. As the vine,  Jesus provides the nutrients to the fruit on the branches, and we are the branches.
Terry carefully pruning a grapevine

Terry carefully pruning a grapevine

Later our group worked quietly in contemplation while pruning several rows of grapevines. Although the task of cutting the vine between two points was simple enough, puling the vine out of the canopy took some effort. The part of the vine cut off often was attached to the wire or other vines by its tendrils and could stretch for several feet.

While we pruned it occurred to us that professionals would have been able to prune the vines much more quickly. This seems similar to experienced grape harvesters can harvest grapes more quickly than someone who is harvesting grapes for the first time.

Returning to the winery, we gathered for lunch and a glass of Rocklands red wine. We learned that the old brick house was built in 1870 and the barn that houses the market place and is also the tasting room is a turn of the century structure.
Be sure to check out Rocklands Farm Winery & Market for the wines, farm market and the farm experience.

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