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When You Kill Your Darlings, Use a Weed Whacker

Posted by Kerith , August 28, 2012

I’d always thought it was an F. Scott Fitzgerald quote. But most folks on the internet attribute the line to William Faulkner. “Don’t be afraid to kill your darlings.” It might as well have been Cormac McCarthy. It’s got a barbaric, primal edge, an implied understanding that I’ll man up and just press delete already. As one who always struggled to keep blue book answers under the requisite 500 words, I hold that advice dear. On my keyboard, killing a darling has only theoretical implications, an imagined sacrifice. It’s a different game when you’re killing something that’s alive.

Unfortunately, my new Russian River Valley pinot vineyard hasn’t gotten the TLC it deserves. We bought the vineyard last month, after most critical farming decisions were already immutable. Some of the vines are over-cropped, hanging too much fruit. In other words, there are bunches of green grapes but not enough leaves to get them ripe. Let’s be clear. Too many grapes are better than no grapes. But the situation is far from ideal. It requires my methodically checking each shoot to ensure there are only 2 clusters per shoot. When there are three, I cut one off with pruning shears (whack). And if a shoot is stunted or was inadvertently sheared off, then it can’t support any grapes at all (whack, whack). It’s tedious work. I walk along the vineyard rows chopping off fruit and letting it rot on the ground. This past week, I’ve grown less tentative and more brazen in my cuts. Weak skinny shoots? Off with the fruit! Little pygmy canes that barely kiss the lower trellis wire? Well off with those bunches, too. But looking at the ground, littered with otherwise perfectly good clusters of grapes, my heart breaks. It’s even more excruciating when those clusters are purple, flaunting their lost potential.

Maybe I should leave well enough alone. The fate of my 2012 fruit was decided well before we bought the place – back in January when it was pruned. But I can’t shake my naive optimism. Maybe I can inch towards better. The Bruliam modus operandi has always been to vinify the best fruit possible and donate 100% of profits. The problem is that I know what good fruit looks like. Soberanes and Gap’s Crown Vineyards set the bar for obsessive farming. And now I can’t pass one of my vines without a snip snip here and a chop-y chop there.

Check out what I’m talking about in the video below (if you can’t see the video, please click here):

 

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