Monday, May 31, 2010

"How long does this all take, anyway?"

Far and away the most commonly asked question I get is, "When will the wine be ready?" or "How long does it take the grapes to grow?"

That ends up being a rather long winded answer because we have done our planting in layers.  Here is my attempt to break-down our personal grapevine timeline.

Spring 2008, we planted 220 vines.  It takes three growing seasons for them to produce grapes suitable for wine making.  Which means, this fall (September 2010) marks the end of their third growing season and we'll have a harvest from our initial crop ready to make wine.  In a more mature vine, you can figure about 1 gallon of wine per vine.  But being their debut year, we anticipate about half that.  If you are following my math, that means that this fall we hope to have 110 gallons from our crop.  And you can get about 5 bottles from each gallon.  That wine will likely be ready for consumption in Fall 2011 after its has all been crushed,  fermented, racked, and bottled.

These are our third year vines in a Vertical Shoot Positioning system (VSP).   The grapes are already coming out and will be ripe for picking this September.  Wahoo!

Spring 2009, we planted 1800 vines.  Making this their second growing season.  Any berries these vines try to produce, we have to pinch off so the vines can focus their energy on growing bigger and stronger.  By fall 2011, these 1800 vines will be ready to harvest grapes.  Again, taking a more conservative approach since it will be their very first year for picking, let's say we get half a gallon per vine the first year.  So about 900 gallons, which makes 5 bottles each gallon.  That is an additional 4500 bottles of wine ready in 2012!  And at that point, we will be well beyond the amount of wine one can legally make for personal production. 

We are hopeful that our quest for our winery license will fall into place by then. 

If not, we'll have one heck of a grape jelly farm!  But things are in motion and we are confident we will come to some resolution with our Township board.

These are some of our second year vines.  While our friends were all out on the lake, we spent our entire Memorial weekend working in the vineyard.  I de-suckered all these vines, getting rid of all the excess growth so we can start positioning them and training them up on the wires.  And my quads feel like jello today.  Aaron sprayed for weeds and watered since we didn't get much rain last week after we planted.  With 3500 vines in the ground, we have more work than ever.

And as twisted as it sounds, we had to pinch off grapes off these second year vines.  They'll have to wait until next year to produce grapes! 

Spring 2010, we planted 1000 vines.  And another couple hundred we still need to get in the ground this year.  They are just starting to bud and will be growing in no time!  Grapes will be ready in Fall 2012 and the wine from them the following year.

Did you follow all of that?

All this being said, our goal is to get a winery license by next year so that by the Fall of 2012, we could start selling the wine from our first two years of planting. We're excited about it! But we have our work cut out for us!  At least we have some helpers.

Okay, maybe "helpers" is a loose term.