1 Year Update
It’s hard to believe that it has been a year since we planted our first vines. What was just an empty field is now a real vineyard. After making it this far it is also hard to believe that if everything works out for us we will have our first small harvest in about a year and half from now.
Sometimes over the past year we felt like it was a constant battle with the weeds attacking from below and the deer attacking from above (thank you grow tubes for at least making it harder for the deer to snack) but at the end of the fall we were left with only 3 dead vines. We’re sure that there was a lot of luck involved but as are rookie grape growers this is an accomplishment that we are proud of.
Late in the fall we took off all of the grow tubes and were surprised that a couple of vines actually had a cluster or two of miniature grapes. Since the grow tubes were mostly filled with leaves it was hard to tell what was actually until we removed them. All total our first “harvest” netted about 5 clusters split between Gruner, Pinot Noir and Zweigelt.
At the same time in the fall we wrapped the outside of the vineyard in 6 foot high fencing to keep the deer at bay and “hilled up” the base of the vines to protect the grafted union from extreme cold weather.
For much of the Midwest the winter was very mild which was good for the young vines. Extremely cold temps can do some serious damage but we luckily avoided any of the bitter cold. While we would have loved to have had some more snow to act as a blanket for the vines we were happy that it never got “Minnesota Cold” in the vineyard.
Early this spring we built the official deer fence around which would allow for a few more future rows to added (more on that later).
One worrisome event happened this spring in that some of our vines were tricked into thinking they should get an early on the growing season owing to the unseasonably warm March that we experienced. Unfortunately for us some of the Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt and Cab Franc started to grow before the last freeze of the spring and suffered some damage.
Lucky for us the damage was minimal and only in a few different varieties. All of the vines has bounced back to some extent and most are doing exactly what we hoped they would do.
Blaufrankisch vines on March 26th, 2012 – before the freeze
Over Memorial weekend we were back to see how things were progressing and were pleasantly surprised at what we saw. Almost all of the vines that were injured by the earlier freezes were doing modestly well.
After a trip to Austria last fall we decided that 9 different varieties were just not enough for us and decided to add 2 new varieties this spring. The first one is called St. Laurent and is very much like Pinot Noir. The other variety is a type that we are fairly confident is not being grown in Michigan but should work out as it is similar to our other varieties.
Unlike last year we actually obtained rootstock and cuttings from a couple of nurseries and did our own grafting of the vines. While we didn’t have any experience grafting vines so far at least 50% of them are taking off and will be planted in the next couple of weeks.