Delicate Work with New Clone

 The newly grafted clone 23 "Mariafeld" is on the right.

The newly grafted clone 23 "Mariafeld" is on the right.

In April, we replaced a 1-acre block of underperforming Calera with clone 23 "Mariafeld," a Pinot Noir clone that we hope resists the shatter that caused the Calera to be a pain in our behinds.

The new buds on the Mariafeld are breaking nicely. But the root stock -- which the Mariafeld clone is grafted to to create a phylloxera-resistant base -- is putting out a lot of suckers. These suckers steal energy necessary for the survival of the little buds, so it’s our job to remove them.

 All the rootstock suckers.

All the rootstock suckers.

The only way to remove them is by hand. Very, very carefully. The buds are very fragile and removing the suckers with a rough hand could easily brush the Mariafeld bud off. That means a new graft and waiting another year for the new clone to come into production.

So, Clay and I spent three days in the vineyard, carefully removing the suckers from 1,862 plants. To save our backs from all the stooping, we wear a back brace and I have a small stool to sit on at each plant. It's not fun work, especially as the days warmed each afternoon. But it is fun to think of the potential of the Mariafeld when it matures in 2017.

 Pre- and post-suckering

Pre- and post-suckering