Monday, May 19, 2008

Young Oak Vineyards - Vol. 7: Trelli?

February 24, 2008

Hi all:

As my son noted to his friends on their Christmas sojourn down the Baja California peninsula in our RV last year, the singular and plural forms of those succulent desert plants are cactus & cacti.  So why not trellis & trelli, instead of trellises?  At any rate, we are down to our last task of the vineyard preparation before our planting party, and that is the trellises!

Over the years, I have observed many, many vineyards, usually while driving at 70 mph going somewhere on vacation.  But for the last couple of years, I have been slowing down and even stopping, to the annoyance of my kids, trespassing on private property and making a lot of measurements of the vineyard rows, trellises & spacing variations, particularly the ones around the Palo Alto Hills & Los Altos Hills.

What I have gleaned from this exercise and from my many conversations with knowledgeable acquaintances, is that a lot of consideration for vineyard layouts comes from a balance of mechanization, the lay of the land & the best orientation for the grapevines.  In the old days, typical vineyards in Napa had rows that were 8 or even 10 feet apart, mainly for passage of large tractors, like a D-9 Caterpillar.  Grapevines were placed 6 feet apart along the rows, so they had plenty room for growth.

But modern vineyard practices have put an emphasis on creating a balance between the good nutrient supply from the sun & roots and stress on the vines by crowding them slightly, forcing adjacent vines into competition, giving the grapevines what the growers call "vigor".  So we have decided to lay out our trellis rows at 6 foot widths with the grapevines 4 feet apart, in the hopes of producing a better wine grape.  We are using what is called the two-wire trellis system and as the grapevines grow, we will use the cordon method of pruning, which is similar to ornamental espalier pruning (flat pruning) along a trellis or wall, like the diagram shows, but involves very careful pruning at specific locations along the canes & at specific buds.

Fourth season
At the planting party, after we plant the grapevine seedlings, we will be tying a piece of twine loosely around the main shoot of the seedling and draping it up to the trellis wires to train the main shoot to grow into the trunk after the first or second year of growth.  

But we are getting  ahead of ourselves about what will happen at the planting party, so we will save that for next Saturday!  I hope you have enjoyed these e-mails as much as I have enjoyed writing, plagiarizing & copyright-infringing them!  To our family & friends who cannot be with us on March 1st, we will all raise a glass and know that you are with us in spirit!

Best regards from down in the vineyard, John

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