Grafting Vines in Napa Valley

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This year, the Caldwell Vineyard canopy is unusually even – including six rows of Cabernet clones in block 17 that were grafted onto established Syrah roots a year ago. In March 2014, the tops of six rows of thirteen-year old Syrah vines were cut in preparation for new Cabernet Sauvignon bud grafts.

Jesus Espinoza, Vineyard Manager at Caldwell Vineyard

Caldwell Vineyard Manager Jesus Espinoza explained his decision for using grafts to change the varietal rather than re-planting new vines.

By grafting new varietals, the vineyard loses just a year of grape production rather than the two years it would take with planting a new vine. Also, the grafted vines are much stronger and more resistant to disease.

grafting vines

Even though the root system is originally from thirteen year old syrah vines, the fruiting portion of the vine will be Cabernet Sauvignon.

Jesus attributes this year’s vineyard canopy evenness to the heat spikes we had earlier in the spring coupled with the timing of his fertilizing before the vines bloomed. A landscape view of the vineyard shows three rows of clones with two rows of Syrah in between three more rows of the clones.

Jesus Espinoza in the vineyard

The two rows of Syrah vines are obvious from their lighter color and relative fullness.

vine grafted with tape

A close up of grafted vines one year into the graft shows the original graft tape that held the bud onto the established vine.

The grafted vines were the last varietal to bloom because they were the last set of vines that were pruned. The vineyard canopy is three feet high and the weather is perfect to slow down the growth a bit – in the ‘70s and consistent. The new Cabernet Sauvignon clones 412 and 685 will produce their first set of fruit in the fall.

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