It’s that most classic of winter Wine Country scenes: A team of fieldworkers moving slowly through a vineyard, pruning away last year’s growth to renew vines for the coming season. At Sonoma Valley’s historic Beltane Ranch, you can feel a part of the crew for a day, sharp clippers and all, at the ranch’s annual pruning party. “Pruning is such an essential part of what we do that it shouldn’t be that big of a deal to share it,” says Beltane’s Lauren Benward Krause, the fifth generation in her family to work this land (her two young sons are the sixth).
And yet, it is a big deal. It’s a different way of experiencing Wine Country, a chance to be immersed in the outdoors and learn about the cultivation of the vines. Your pruning instructors? Members of Beltane’s vineyard crew as well as high-schoolers from the local Future Farmers of America, who take guests under their wing to teach the basics of bud counts and how to make the perfect angled cut. Guest pruners and their teachers form teams to race through the rows, with winners scoring bottles of Beltane wines made from the vines just worked.
Beltane Ranch Pruning Party. (Courtesy photos)
The rest of the day is top-notch fun too, rain or shine: pulled pork tacos, mariachi music, a huge bonfire to warm chilly hands, and tables set right in between the vineyard rows with hay-bale benches and clusters of bright yellow mustard blossoms in tin cans. It’s one of the best days of the year for Krause and her crew. “It’s such a rich, heart-and-soul-of-Sonoma thing. Making wine takes the hands of many, and there’s so much to love and appreciate.”
Beltane Ranch’s fifth annual pruning party is Feb. 23 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The cost is $150, which includes lunch, wine, pruning instruction, and equipment. Purchase tickets in advance at beltaneranch.com.