Pruning of the Vineyard at Deukmejian

Stone Barn Vineyard Conservancy members take a break on Sunday morning from pruning the vines in Deukmejian Wilderness Park. From left are Ned Teitelbaum, Bruce and Jane Campbell, Jerry Burnham, Marie Yeseta, Ashley Semosh, Jesse Mangiage and Stone Barn Vineyard Conservancy director Stuart Byles. The stone barn is in the background.
Photos by Ruth SOWBY


 Armed with pruning shears, volunteers descend on Deukmejian for the annual pruning of the vines.

Deukmejian Wilderness Park has a secret many don’t know: among the hundreds of acres that encompass the park, next to the historic stone barn that was recently reopened and the outdoor amphitheater sits a vineyard. According to the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley, in 1885 two immigrant French winemakers – Georges Le Mesnager and Pierre Durancette – purchased land in Dunsmore Canyon from Dr. Benjamin B. Briggs, the founder of La Crescenta. They had a winery in downtown Los Angeles and planted vines on their new acreage. They then shipped the grapes to Los Angeles for processing. In 1905, Georges’ son Louis began building the two-story stone barn with wine storage on the ground floor. Prohibition stalled the wine business but, after it ended, a disastrous fire in 1933 burned the building, leaving only the stonework.

The City of Glendale in 1986 acquired what is now known as Deukmejian Wilderness Park. The grape vines are maintained by the Stone Barn Vineyard Conservancy, which is an offshoot (to use a pruning term) of the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley. First planted in 2004, initially the city planted Abouriou, Alicante Bouschet and Red Flame grapes. The Stone Barn Vineyard now boasts several more varieties of grapes. The original Abouriou and Alicante Bouschet grapes are a type of red wine grape, while Red Flame is grown for eating. In 2014, permission was given to add three more rows of grapevines. One of the added rows was for a grape variety that was found at the top of the nearby hills. A cutting was taken for testing and it was found to be from a Burger grape vine, a particularly rare white wine grape. Byles added the cutting to the vineyard, and it is now growing along with the other grape varieties.

The recent email invitation to Stone Barn Vineyard Conservancy members read: “Bring a bucket, hand-held pruning shears, water-bottle and a willing attitude.” About a dozen volunteers responded, showing up to the vines in Deukmejian Wilderness Park this past cloudy Sunday morning.

The purpose of pruning is to obtain maximum yields of high quality grapes and to allow adequate vegetative growth for the following season. Pruning also removes older (nonproductive) wood, removes diseased or damaged vines, encourages new growth, opens the canopy to sunlight and air flow and keeps the vine size to a manageable level, according to the universities of Nebraska and Wyoming.

The attire of the volunteers was pruning-ready: ­solid shoes, long sleeves and a hat – clothing that was necessary to protect volunteers eager to tame the 81 grapevines. Leading the charge was La Crescenta resident Stuart Byles, director of the Stone Barn Vineyard Conservancy.    

Byles explained the fine art of pruning to the volunteers: “Go up two nodes to just before the third node, then cut.” 

La Crescenta resident and volunteer Jane Campbell prunes vines at the Stone Barn vineyard on Sunday.

Following this direction were volunteers and La Crescenta residents Jane and Bruce Campbell. 

“We’ve been doing this for years with Stuart and [his wife] Marie,” said Jane.

In addition to pruning, the grapes need to be harvested and bottled. Harvesting typically takes place in August/September and bottling in November/December. The number of bottles produced is determined by the harvested grapes, weather and animals, said Byles.

Volunteers are always needed to help with these duties. Annual membership in the Stone Barn Vineyard Conservancy is $40, which includes two bottles of wine.

For information on joining the Stone Barn Vineyard Conservancy email Membership donations help fund the vineyard.