Friday, May 11, 2012

Grafting our Grapes

When we bought our property five years ago, it was planted with Merlot grapes. After the first harvest, we made a small amount of wine from the Merlot and sold the rest of the grapes to another winery. The quality of the wine from that first year wasn’t very good. We thought that our soil wasn’t a good match for Merlot, and that we would eventually have to graft all of the vines over to another variety.

Typically when grapes are planted, the bottom half of the grape vine, called the rootstock is planted first. Then the top of the vine, or the budwood, is grafted on. Grafting is an age-old practice that allows you to plant rootstock that is resistant to pests and diseases and/or grows better in drier conditions. However rootstock produces grapes that don’t make good quality wine, so it’s necessary to graft the variety of grape that you want for your wine onto the top.  The variety that is grafted onto the top of the rootstock (the budwood) doesn’t take on any of the flavors of the rootstock.

The first spring after we bought our property, we grafted a small section of the vineyard with the variety Ribolla gialla (an ancient variety brought to California from Fruili, Italy) onto our home vineyard. Ribolla gialla is one of the varieties in our White Wine blend. In 2008 we made a 100% Ribolla gialla from that small planting and it was part of our first Wine Club shipment.
this tiny piece of a stick will turn into a grape vine

Since then we have grafted more of the Ribolla into our vineyard as well as Refosco  (another variety brought to California from Fruili, Italy), Cabernet franc, and Petit verdot. We made small amounts of wine from these limited graftings, and they turned out so well that we decided to graft some more. We also grafted another variety typically grown in Fruili, Italy called Schioppettino. So more, fun, unusual wine to come from our vineyard!

the results from last year's grafting
And this week was the week of grafting. Because it’s a highly trained skill, we hire professional grafters who travel around the world following the grafting season. It’s a pretty amazing process.

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