Grape Tree: Attempting the Goblet
Sometimes you have to abandon convention and risk making a complete idiot of yourself to see if you can pull off the unexpected. When I designed the front yard with a micro vineyard I knew I wanted to try to head train one of the vines into a goblet shape. I have always loved the way they look in vineyards and I wanted a “grape tree” (as a 5 year old pirate I live with calls them). I read the bits and pieces on goblet training about the lower yields and being very difficult to execute. With only 4 vines that was a concern, but this effort is equally about learning and aesthetics to appease the Gal, as much as it was about producing enough wine.
Problem was, despite 50+ different Google searches, I could find very little information about how to prune for the goblet shape. So I decided to wing it. But that’s not all; I decided to take it another unconventional step further. Oddly enough, the three zinfandel, which would all be good candidates for a goblet, were trained to VSP and the Syrah, which are typically spur trained (gleaned from Wes Hagen’s blog post in WM), I decided would be my goblet. Welcome to Bizarro world. But still there’s more, not only did I want a goblet but I wanted a 4’ tall goblet vine.
So to recap, a vine that isn't conducive to a head trained goblet, a very difficult form to execute, was going to be grown to 4’ tall by someone who had absolutely no resources or clue what he was doing. This bodes well…
The strategy was sound and all was actually going well, until reality took a squat on my efforts. The idea was that the first year I let the shoots grow, removing the flowers when they appeared to get a large canopy to support root growth. Check.
Second year(this year), I selected a very strong shoot as the trunk, cut it at about 4’ and left 5 buds from the top down. The next part was hazy. At a loss, in May I decided to try another Google search and came across this valuable goblet training video. If you want to grow a vine this way it is well worth the 5 minutes to watch and then provide a comment of thanks to encourage more sharing like this.
The video confirmed that I was already doing it the wrong way. I missed clipping the trunk at the desired height that first year to produce shoots at the cut that would eventually become the goblet. Somewhat fortunate, there are two shoots that are very close together almost opposite each other and could be a very good bifurcation. I can still imagine the beautiful “grape tree” that will form.
I followed the advice in the video about tying the shoots to the top of the support to maintain an upward growth and here in lay my folly, not in following the advice but my execution. I have a large 2.5” round wood, support with no loop to properly secure the shoots to. I taped them together at the top of the support and they were all growing splendidly. I should have seen what came next.
One day, I drove up to the house after the day job and was admiring the wall of leaves from the Zinfandel and then looked to my beautifully forming “grape bush” Syrah…what, “BUSH”, why was it so low? Seems the weight of the shoots was too much for the few rounds of tape I had wrapped around the top and the weight snapped the tape and pulled the entire trunk down so it was bent just like the “wrong way” vines in the video.
The trunk did not snap so there is still hope. As you can see in the picture, while it looks like a jumbled mess, I have retied the shoots to the top and have supported the trunk with many more tapings, some not visible. There is definitely a distinct curve to the top of the trunk now but overall I feel it can be salvaged and a nice “grape tree” will emerge.
One positive about disregarding convention and making things difficult, I have plenty of reasons to point to if I am not successful. If I am successful though, then it truly proves that this kind of endeavor can be achieved by most anyone with a strong interest in making the attempt.