Saturday, June 20, 2009

Grape Blog Launch! Finally

Today, after much procrastinating, I'm finally launching the Bluff Creek Vineyards Grape Blog. I'll be blogging on what is going on in the vineyard throughout the growing season, and I'll probably stray off on a few tangents here and there as well. I'll try to circle back if I go too far astray because I want this blog to be mostly about GRAPES! Cold Climate Grapes. This is definitely Not Napa. We have our own set of conditions here that make growing grapes quite a challenge, but it can be done. There are lots of people in Iowa, and throughout the Midwest doing the same thing. Little by little, Midwest Grapegrowers are chipping away at the perception that the only things that grow in Iowa are corn and soybeans.

Right now we are smack in the middle of the 2009 growing season. We are way ahead of schedule in terms of rainfall. It reminds me a lot of last spring when we had the horrendous flooding in Iowa. We worked around it last year and my folks came up from Florida to help plant, and we managed to get a week of perfect weather. We planted about 700 vines, just in time for a lot more rain. The vines literally grew like weeds. I think we had to hand water twice last year, Mother Nature took care of the rest.

We had so much fun last year that we decided to do it all again this year. My folks showed up in the first week of May and we again got a week of perfect weather and planted about 830 more vines. We now have roughly two acres of vines planted. In 2008 we planted two cultivars, a red and a white. We planted seven rows about 400 feet longof the red grape, Cynthiana. We expect this grape to do well here, in spite of the fact that we are on the very northern edge of it's hardiness range. It has a long growing season but we have good southern exposure and long, hot summers, which should help it to thrive. It's an American grape with tons of potential for making a deep red, full-bodied wine. It's also very disease resistant (more on that later). It's grown extensively in Missouri and they refer to it passionately as the Cabernet of the Ozarks. I like that! It has actually been designated their official State Grape. We also planted a grape called Traminette last year. We planted four rows of it. It makes a terrific white wine that can be finished sweet or semi-dry. I think it is my favorite hybrid grape, in terms of wine potential. One of it's parents is Gewurztraminer and the wine is very similar to that, although maybe a little less spicy and a little less aromatic. It should do well here in all but the coldest winters.

In 2009, we planted 12 additional rows, six more rows of Traminette (did I tell you I like this grape?) and five rows of a grape called Sabrevois (Sah-braeh-vwah), which is an Elmer Swenson cultivar. It is grown extensively in Canada and is a red winegrape. We also put in an additional row of 8 different cultivars, 12 plants each, to experiment with, and determine what we might like to grow on the rest of our acres. We have roughly 40 acres of land but much of it is either oak timber or riparian buffer, and of course house. We haven't mapped it out with a GPS yet but think we should be able to cover about 8 acres in vines. Our plan is to sell the grapes to wineries initially, of which there are over 70 now in the state, but eventually we plan to open our own winery.

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