Budding a Vineyard

The art of grafting





Watching a vineyard be budded is truly an amazing thing to behold. Skilled workers do this job in just a few seconds per vine, moving through the vineyard at an incredible pace, and doing meticulous work all the while.

When first planting a vineyard, rootstock (usually 101-14, known for doing well in our area for Pinot and Chardonnay) is planted in the rows in spring, and this plant is allowed to grow at the top for six months to a year. Then, new budwood of the varietal and clone you want is grafted onto the main part of the vine. Interestingly, it doesn't matter that the rootstock varietal and budded clone are the same—you can bud chardonnay onto zinfandel and it makes no difference.

In grafting, first the bud is sliced off the budwood cane in a shield shape (oval at the top, and square at the bottom). Then, a matching shape is cut out of the rootstock, just into the green of the wood beneath. The bud is then dropped into the cane like a puzzle piece, and the portion above and below the bud eye is taped. The important thing here is that these two pieces must be a near exact match—no extra bud that doesn't touch the green wood underneath, and no extra green wood on the stem that's not touching the new budwood.

After the bud is taped on, a nick is cut into the rootstock cane below the graft, which encourages the vine to bleed there rather than above at the graft union. In about four weeks, once it's ensured that the buds have taken and are starting to push new growth, the old tops of the grapevine are cut off so all energy is focused toward the new bud growth.