Vine grafting: Cabernet, Merlot vineyards become Petit Verdot, Malbec

by on July 7, 2011

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In May, we embarked on our first grapevine grafting project since completion of the Jordan Estate soil mapping study. Using results from the study, we identified certain vineyard blocks, which had soil composition more suitable to Petit Verdot and Malbec. Technology is a beautiful thing.

Approximately 3.2 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon were earmarked for grafting to Malbec, and roughly 3.3 acres of Merlot were grafted to Petit Verdot. These blocks were selected for the experiment because they’ve struggled to produce the quality of fruit Winemaker Rob Davis demands for our final blend. The soil mapping study has allowed us to identify these small pieces of vineyard with soil variability (rocky, more restrictive composition), and try other Bordeaux varietals that should have higher potential for greatness. Petit Verdot has proven to be an ideal grape for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon, and the scientific data now available on our estate vineyards indicates that our success with Petit could be extended to other blocks. Five years ago, we grafted our last Cabernet Franc vineyard block to Petit Verdot, which now produces some of the highest-quality grapes on our estate.

In this video, I discuss the farming technique of grafting, which allows a mature vineyard to produce quality grapes in far less time than replanting–and has significantly less environmental impact. Watch how these master craftsmen graft each vine, completely changing its flavor with a few cuts and incisions. In just two years, these vines will be bearing an entirely different variety of grapes than they did just last harvest.

  • Rsaikowski

    Presentation is excellent on grafting. Glad to see some of the vine at th e end. Hope you show those vines around September to see how they have progressed.

  • William Peper

    Fascinating.  I make the assumption (from the winter coats on the workers) that you chop your canes from the desired scions at late winter (or very early spring, well before budbreak), and then cart all those canes (with buds) over to the targeted grafting block and get them cut and grafted, before the xylem fluids have time to be really disrupted?
    Very nicely done video!
    Bill Peper

  • Susan

    Fascinating! Thank you for such a detailed presentation. Gonna pass this along through TWITTER.


  • Anonymous

    Hi Susan, I’m glad you enjoyed the video blog post.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Bill,

    I’m glad you liked the grafting video. I am working on getting an answer from Brent for you (he’s on vacation), but I’m almost positive you should not graft a grapevine during winter when the vines are dormant. Only pruning is done during winter. You need the vine to be awake during grafting so the new buds can take to the scion and being immediately growing together.
    Cheers, Lisa

  • Anonymous

    Hi Ron, I’d love to show you around the vineyard when you’re here in September. Please keep me posted on your travel dates. Glad you enjoyed the video. Cheers, Lisa

  • Topuridz

    Please, can you let me know what went well and what did not?
    I am going to do the same in this April - change the veriety on 3000 plants. I found very good team of grafters.  However, I see around me that some other my colleagues had no success after they grafted, some of them completly failed to keep the grafts in life. 
    do I need speciall care after grafting other then well taped grafts and normal rutine spring care as usual?

  • Laura

    A quick note from our Viticulturist Brent Young: In 2011, Jordan Vineyard and Winery ended up grafting three acres of Merlot over to Petit Verdot along with another three acres of Cabernet Sauvignon over to Malbec. Because the growing season ended up being mild in Alexander Valley the grafting success rate across the estate was greater than 98%. We were extremely happy with these findings and had no critical problems to report. The care for the newly grafted vines during the growing season was normal viticulture practices. We did however spend more time observing the newly grafted vines and graft unions during the season to ensure pest pressure was kept low and the vines were growing nicely. We are looking forward to harvesting the fruit from the vines in 2012 so please stay tuned.