After bud break occurs in the vineyard in late April and throughout the month of May, we see the shoots of the vines begin to grow rapidly. As the valley heats up, shoots can grow up to an inch per day. When this happens, vineyard crews throughout Napa Valley being the process of suckering.
Suckering is a vital part of vineyard maintenance, as it redirects the vine’s energy to the most important shoots. When crews sucker the vines, they are essentially removing all of the unnecessary shoots, resulting in fewer clusters of grapes but greater concentration of flavors in the remaining clusters.
The second benefit of suckering is opening up the canopy to allow air movement through the vines, preventing excess moisture and mildew. The process usually requires two passes through the vineyard, once for removing excess shoots and once for removing leaves/foliage to allow air and sunlight exposure. Our vineyard crews complete this process for over 200 miles of vines over Peju’s vineyard properties.
Each year, the Peju sisters pitch in during our employee suckering education alongside the vineyard manager and reflect back on their many childhood years spent suckering vines. “Our dad would pay us $1 per vineyard row that we suckered. To put that into perspective, some of our vineyard rows are over a mile long,” says Ariana Peju. “It was difficult, and we quickly convinced our dad to pay us $5 per row. Doing things like this as a young kid growing up on a vineyard definitely taught us about the hard work that goes into maintaining the vines each year,” says Lisa Peju.