How to train a grapevine

I learned how to train a grapevine yesterday, working once again in a Pinot Noir vineyard located near Newberg, Oregon, a next door neighboring vineyard to Adelsheim. My vine-grower friend is now training the fruiting canes on each vine, two per vine, with her 5000 vines, which makes for 10,000 grapevines to train in the next week or so. Each fruiting cane is perhaps 3-4 feet long, pointing vertically, with the largest budding leaves at the top, which I learned is what is called “apical dominance”, with the greatest growth happening at the highest location on the vine. Each fruiting cane needs to be trained along the lower wire trellis. That got me thinking about apical dominance in the spiritual life in Christ. Spiritual growth comes to the places within our soul which focus upon what is highest, most eternal, or pointed to God. As Paul writes, “whatever true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). Or, in terms of the vine, let your growth energy go there.


The first step in training a grapevine involves crimping the fruiting cane along the internode, between the nodes or buds. The woody internodes, when gently bent, will shape the fruiting cane to lay flat along the lower wire trellis.

In the second step of training a grapevine, the vinegrower wraps the fruiting cane around the lower wire trellis twice around, being careful not to knock off any of the new buds. Each bud which gets knocked off, I was told, represents several future clusters of grapes lost. My friend, the vine-grower, told me that the fruiting cane will let you know which way it wants to wrap around the trellis.

The third step is to overlap two fruiting canes from two neighboring vines along the same wire trellis, and putting a wire tie around the two canes and wire trellis holding the grapevine in place. The goal is to fill the whole trellis with fruiting canes.

The final step involves the overlapping fruiting canes which are trimmed to below the bud nearest the wire tie down, so the overlap is only abotu 2-3 inches.

Along the row I was working, there are 25 vines, with 50 fruiting canes, two per vine. The training of this row took me over an hour, a delicate work to avoid knocking off buds. My friend told me that vines have an inner wisdom and natural design to reproduce. Every bud is actually three buds, the primary bud which may be able to produce 3-4 clusters of grapes. If that primary bud is damaged, either by human clumsiness, by frost or pest, the vine will release the secondary bud which may be able to produce a single cluster of grapes. If that secondary bud is damaged or lost, the vine has in store a tertiary bud ready to be released which will not produce any fruit, but will still send out a shoot which may become a fruiting cane for the following year.