Top Tips On Starting Your Own Vineyard
Because starting a successful vineyard is an ancient art, we are sharing the top tips on how to get those grape vines off the ground.
From the foothills surrounding Napa Valley to the great growers of Italy to the eastern stretches of Long Island, vineyards have been carefully constructed using age-old methods to yield the perfect flavorings of grapes, and nearly anyone in a temperate part of the wide world can start up their own vineyard to rave results.
Growing grapes requires wholesome farming work and can be both fun and rewarding.
The benefits of creating your own custom cabernet that can be sipped and the recipe tinkered with until it blasts your palate out of the water are innumerable and gratifying.
Compiling experiences from some of the world’s best wine producers, we have a list for you to take in before considering implementing your very own vineyard practice:
- Educate Yourself: There is a lot that goes into growing grapes in a vineyard and so acclimating yourself to the myriad possibilities and scenarios is essential to success; be sure to make sure your climate will support a vineyard, for instance, because certain conditions, like extremely cold winters, can disqualify any chance of growth (sorry Boston natives, but people do not grow grapes in Mass.).
- Choose a Goal: Now that you have learned about the grape-making process, choosing your goal in making a vineyard is crucial; you can make a backyard vineyard or a huge lot fit for commercial production; keep in mind that forty-five pounds of grapes yield only one case of wine; will the wine production take place on your premises or will you just be making the grapes and handing them off to a winery?
- Landscaping: Who will be doing the landscaping at your vineyard? Many vineyard owners like to be involved in the grape growing process themselves, but experts like Pete Richmond, the founder of Silverado Farming in Napa, CA, helps vineyards develop and manage their sites to produce the best possible wine and grapes; professional vineyard managers usually comes out once a month, or more, to check on the grapes and ensure their healthy growth, but this cost can be avoided by self-landscaping.
- Climate: Ideally a warmer temperate area with a short, mild winter is the best type of climate to grow grapes in, but places like Long Island have done exceedingly well despite winters often lasting more than three months; having a lot of direct sunlight and warm but well-drained moisture is ideal (which is why the humidity of Long Island does so well despite the winters).
- Choose the Right Variety of Grape: If you are not in the ideal northern California climate, than you must choose your varieties of grapes wisely, because certain strains will survive in Long Island temperatures but not thrive; other grapes will die if the land is too hot and dry; check around to see if there are any local vineyards in your area and find out what grapes they use in their process (it can save you a lot of time and heartbreak); places where it gets too hot will not yield Pinot grapes for instance; Richmond has a rather simple and practical suggestion: “If you are intending to make wine out of the fruit, I would plant what you enjoy drinking,” he says. “As a rule of thumb, whites do better in cool climate and reds in warmer. Whites are also easier to grow. Table grapes need lots of heat, which is why most of them are grown from Fresno to the Mexican border. But other than that, grow what you like.”
- Soil: The soil needs to be in tip top shape, as it offers the lifeblood for the plants; be sure the soil is watered and able to be drained easily and has a proper PH that is not too acidic or basic, ideally between 5.5 and 6.8.
- Irrigation: Maintaining a steady irrigation system is vital to grape production; each vine needs about four gallons of water a week.
- Inspection: To keep the vineyard up to snuff, bi-weekly inspections are required between May and October, as each plant needs the fruit to be taken off the vine and not left hanging for the first few years while the vine is growing or the vine will become damaged; similar to rose plants, if the vines are left in too much water mildew can grow and so keeping an eye on the drainage and the plant itself every other week is critical to getting healthy vines.
Pick those grapes and let the vineyard give you the reward of your own home grown vino!