Grafting Field Blends

Blog Post

June 2022

For over fifty years, we have been working with historic, field-blend vineyards. Many of these vineyards were planted around the turn of the century in a mixed pattern with grape varieties inter-planted. We are one of the few wineries that are replanting new vineyards to field blends as we have found that this practice results in more interesting, complex wines. We cherish these historic vineyards and to this day they continue to be the foundation for many of our wines.

Expertise in Grafting Vines

Mauro Maldonado, Viticulturist at our Lytton Springs Estate, gives us a look into an important springtime task: grafting.

Grafting is the process of joining together two plants so that they may grow together. T-budding is a method of grafting onto rootstock (or a stem with a well-developed root system). When you T-Bud, you cut a ‘T’ into the Cambium layer of the trunk, peel that back, and insert a couple of buds into it and tie it around with grafting tape. The vine is then monitored for growth.

Pictured here is Martin, a grafter whose experience is crucial for this work because it is very specialized. We work with the same group of grafters every year to maintain a working standard and to ensure a good take.

Planning a Field Blend

Mauro explains how RIDGE implements grafting to create a field blend. “From decades of working with old vineyards that are typically made up of different varieties planted in the right place, we’ve learned that the synergy in these vineyards produces a wine of outstanding quality. Instead of blending different grape varieties after fermentation to produce the final wine, our blending happens in the vineyard, where we pick the mixed varieties together before they are co-fermented.”

“Usually, these vineyards are made up of zinfandel, petit sirah, carignane, and in smaller percentages mataro, Teinturiers, and other more obscure grapes. Here is an example of how we planned and executed a mixed block in Sonoma this year.”

grafting field blends
  • First, we collect our budwood during the dormant season and keep it in cold storage until it is time for grafting.
  • When the time is right, we take our budwood and mix it up by percentages as shown below:
    • 40% Zinfandel – Gives berry, bramble, and other fruity aromas
    • 40% Petite Sirah – Provides structure, tannin, and color
    • 10% Carignane – For acid
    • 10% Mix of other varieties

“This year, we’ve finished grafting 10 acres in Sonoma, all of which are mixed.”

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