The Sonoma County Pruning Contest

The Sonoma County pruning contest takes place every year and provides a great opportunity for vineyard workers to showcase their talents.  Each local winegrower association from the varied appellations within Sonoma County hosts their own contest.  The winners of these preliminary events met up on February 25th for the Grand Showdown.

In the end, the winner of the competition is decided by a combination of speed and accuracy.  A small group of judges painstakingly assess the work of each pruner and deduct points for sloppy cuts or damage to adjacent buds, for example.

It is really amazing to watch these guys work.  The contestants move through the pruning of each arm on the cordon, leaving only a two-bud spur and removing all other unnecessary wood.  They also clear the prunings, or brush, from the retaining wires.  And they are moving pretty fast.

The winner and top finishers get cash prizes and a horde of gifts from local vineyard supply companies and other sponsors.  It’s great to recognize the vineyard workers and to see what a quality job they do.

The Sonoma County Winegrape Growers do a great job celebrating the winners, and this year was no different. And if you think pruning vines is just about a few snips, a swirl and a sip, well then, I suggest you take a look at this video from last year’s event:


For laughs, vineyard managers and winemakers from across Sonoma County pair up in sort of a “Celebrity Pro/Am” event.  I participated this year on the Knights Valley team with my vineyard manager, Mariano Navarro.  Knight’s Valley fielded four winemaker/vineyard manager teams and our overall time and skill was enough to take 2nd place out of the five wine regions that participated.

Unfortunately, we weren’t strong enough to beat the Alexander Valley team, on which a couple of our colleagues participated.  I guess they’ll keep bragging rights for this year.  It was a lot of fun, though, and I’m really glad I got to do it.  I’ll definitely be back next year!