Why am I posting grafting? We just planted our vineyard in 2010 with 3130 Pinot Noir vines…or so we thought. Nurseries, like anyone else, make mistakes. Of the 3200 vines we ordered, we ended up with 50 Merlot’s, 7 Chardonnay and about 23 vines that the graft didn’t take. You can’t tell any of that until you have fruit on them 2 or 3 years later!
In 2012, our 1st fruit year, we ended up putting the Merlot into the Pinot Noir since we could not tell the vines apart. For 2013 made the Merlot into Jelly. In 2014 we made a little Merlot and the picking crew cut the rest off before I could stop them. Lastly, in 2015 we left the Merlot to ripen for an extra 3 weeks and it is now getting ready to bottle in a few months…and it tastes great!
So why are we grafting them over the Pinot Noir? Since they ripen at different times than the Pinot Noir and the 50 Merlot are scattered in the vineyard with 3000 other vines, they are a pain to keep separate. You have to mark them, leaf differently, and keep them netted longer.
So, we will lose a year of production on those vines…but they would not have been used anyway.
How do you do graft?
- First you have to mark the vines you want to graft over
- Next you have to obtain budwood…in our case, when we pruned the vines we collected the canes and cut them into 4 bud lengths. We then bundled them up, put them in a plastic bag and will refrigerate them until we graft in March. (see picture above) Keep them around 34-36 F but don’t freeze them!
For the rest of the Grafting process…tune back in mid-March
What are “invisible Tannins”?
I recently received a review for our 2014 Turtle Vines Pinot Noir …yes, we are announcing the release of that wine in the next few days!!! In the review was the term “Invisible Tannins”. A few years ago I taught my nephew “Young but Approachable”. This one is not as funny, but I think is a great term, and in my mind another way to say “balanced with great structure”. Below is the explanation I got below from the Prince of Pinot.
First…a quick explanation of a wine tannin. Tannin is a naturally occurring polyphenol found in plants, seeds, bark, wood, leaves and fruit skins. (see above picture) As a characteristic of wine, tannin adds both bitterness and astringency as well as complexity. Wine tannins are most commonly found in red wine, although white wines have tannin from being aged in wooden barrels or with oak adjuncts.
Prince of Pinot – “You want some tannic backbone in wine not only for balance but for age ability. That said, you want to sense that a wine has structure, but you don’t want the structure (tannins) to stand out. Tannins should blend harmoniously with the fruit extraction, alcohol, acidity and oak – essentially invisible in the context of the wine as a whole or better said, balanced. Tannins will change over time in the bottle, so they may stand out a bit in a young wine and that is ok if they are not big tannins. I am sure you have experienced opening a wine and finding it a bit tannic, but when re-tasted 2-3 days later from the same bottle, the tannins have softened and seemingly integrated. That is a sign that the tannins will meld over time in the bottle in the cellar.”
Lastly, in order to make a balanced wine you need to take into account the acidity and alcohol content to determine how much tannin is needed. In general, the higher the alcohol and lower the acid the more tannins you will need. That is why Cabernet and Merlot will have more tannins than Pinot Noir.
Just a quick post on vine tying and buying the correct wire. Two years ago a friend of mine and fellow winemaker, John Mason, invested in a Pellanc Tie Tool. Has made tying vines to the wires much easier.
When you tie vines you need to pick out the correct wire. Tie wire for the Pellanc comes in 4 grades based on how long it will last in the field. For cane pruned vines you only want the ties to last 1 year and then be able to pull the canes from the wires easily. I used the second softest grade of wire, the first softest tends to jam in the tool.
I learned an obvious but good lesson this year. Since the wire is designed to fall apart after 1 year, get new spools every year. What you see above and in detail below is the tie wire that I left in the tool since last spring. Notice how the cover has come off the wire. I didn’t change the spool and it jammed and didn’t work. Took me about 15 minutes to realize why….duh, you need a new spool, the old one is doing what it was designed to do, fall apart after a year! Good thing I only had one spool leftover from 2015. FYI…I will use 9 of these spools in my boutique vineyard and take me about 12 hours to tie.
For those of you in other parts of the country having an arctic blast caused by El Nino this year and you wondered…must be a lot of rain in Wine Country. Well…not so much. We are a little under our normal rainfall total so far in 2016 and it has now been dry for 12 days (and counting) and it doesn’t look much rain until the 23rd of February. Good news is they are predicting a wetter than normal March. Hopefully we get a lot of rain to fill the reservoirs and end the drought, but doesn’t look like it. At least for us in wine country, rain in March is great as it fills the soil with moisture that will last until July for the grapevines.
Good news – mid 70’s here in February!
Bad news – soil will warm up and cause an early bud break!
So…I had pre-pruned the vineyard earlier to make it easier to see where to prune…and to delay my final pruning. Above you can see for cane pruning you leave 2 healthy canes from the previous year and cut off all the rest. Below you will see that the canes are shortened such that the canes when tied to the wires don’t touch. It is hard to estimate, so normally I tie them to the wires and then trim one of the canes if I left them to long.
For me this year looks like my “wire will be full” (all of the vines have 2 canes to tie to the wire. Hopefully we will have a good fruit set and a large quality harvest in 2016.
BTW…what is nice to see in 2016, six years after initial planting, is that the trunks are getting larger and we did a good job last year of keeping the correct canes during thinning in 2015 for use in 2015! Hope that makes sense to all reading. Basically, anything you do as far as pruning/thinning/spraying the previous year you get to see the results the next year.
This picture shows the rows now pruned and ready to be tied. I will remove the piles of canes in the next week and mow the grass so I can begin to catch gophers earlier this year before they get out of control!