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What’s Shakin’ Now?

I suggest the analogy of our wine to a berry pie. The grapes are the filling. The oak is the crust, which not only physically keeps the filling from oozing allover the table and onto the floor (making the dog very happy), but it has a subtle, toasty, textural character that can be appreciated all on its own as well as lending interest and contrast to the personality of the pie filling. It’s also true that our German Shepherd appreciates berry pie and Zinfandel about equally.

This past spring I did some more bench grafting of grapevines in Sebastopol, where Judi & I live. The primary reason grapevines are grafted is that the European wine varieties with which we are familiar (Vitis vinifera), develop roots that cannot withstand the feeding of Phylloxera (kind of an underground aphid). If we graft our tasty European Vitis vinifera scion onto a resistant species or hybrid rootstock, the vine will survive a lot longer. I was able to acquire scions of rare clones of Pinot noir, Chardonnay, Pinot gris, and my Father’s selections of Zinfandel from the old block (all of these are varieties of the same species: Vitis vinifera). The only difficulty I had was getting the rootstock cuttings I wanted. The nursery forgot about my small order and planted all the cuttings in the field. To pick up my order, I had to wade bootlessly through the mud, dodging sprinklers, pulling the sticks I wanted out of the ground, hoping to salvage what I could of the precious clones in our refrigerator (This year, research prevailed over dinner). I predicted a dismal ‘take’ of my grafts.

I was wrong. Owing to my 1993 experience, every single graft I made in 1994 callused (grew together) perfectly. The only failures we had were that the scion (top part) bud died due to the long, dry storage in the refrigerator and that some rootstock (bottom part) cuttings did not form roots (quite common for certain types, especially those with v: berlandieri parentage).

The vines from the 1993 grafting now planted in our Sebastopol garden are doing quite well. The Syrah is growing vigorously this spring. In the future, there should be sufficient home-grown rootstock to avoid having any more small, unusual orders forgotten by commercial nurseries. By the  way, I’m open to any suggestions for gopher control.

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