A new grapevine starts life as varietal budwood -- in our case, it's Pinot Noir Calera and Pommard clones -- grafted onto rootstock selected for its capability to withstand phylloxera and play nice with the soil. Trunk training is when one of the shoots that sprout from the baby vine are selected to be the future trunk of the vine.
We've been trunk training the 500-600 new plants that make up our expanded Pinot block, our new Chardonnay block and re-plants of failed vines throughout the vineyard. It's historic work when you consider that those crooked, gnarly trunks you see in old vineyards were once very delicate shoots.
To train the trunks, we trim off the top of all the shoots and remove the cartons that protected the baby vines. Then we select the strongest shoot and tie it with garden tape to the stake. The junction where the shoot is connected is very fragile, so great care has to be taken to be sure it doesn’t snap off while handling it. We will often wait to remove all the other shoots until the strongest has been successfully tied, in the event we do break one off. Some shoots have already nominated themselves to be the trunk by wrapping their tendrils around the stake. Sadly, they're not always the strongest, just the closest.
It’s delicate work but very satisfying knowing that what you do today might still be around 50 years from now, given great care. Knowing that it will probably outlive you definitely makes the careful attention worthwhile.