Leigh Erwin: A Vineyard Daydream

Growing Grapes For WineHi guys!  Leigh here!
While I’m sitting here looking at potential homes to buy, I got to thinking—is there enough space in these yards to grow enough of my own grapes for making my own wine?  How much space and how many vines do I actually need?
After doing some reading, turns out the answer kind of depends on how much quality I want to get out of my wine.  If I don’t care about quality, I can just pack a bunch in together and see what happens.  If I do care about quality, I need to pay a lot closer attention to the types of grapes I choose, how far apart they are from one another, and how many I need to plant. All of theses factors come into play when growing grapes for wine.
One of the biggest considerations I need to make is related to the type of grape I should plant.  Do I plant Vitis vinifera?  Or do I plant native varieties?  This really all depends on the climate (including temperature and humidity) as well as the soil.  Not all grapes grow well under the same conditions, so depending upon where I live could make a huge difference in what I plant.
There is a great little “post” regarding growing grapes for wine that I read on Homebrewing.org, which confirms this idea of picking the right grapes for where you live.  This post also mentions what to expect once you actually plant the grapes, and how many vines you should plant if you’re sticking with small batch winemaking.
Once you plant the vines, you can’t expect to be making wine immediately.  In fact, it takes a good 3-4 years before you end up with a decent crop for winemaking.  So, if you’re in a hurry to make wine with grapes, obviously you’ll need to buy someone else’s grapes for a few years while you’re waiting for yours to grow and mature.  All the while you need to make sure you set up trellises for when the grapes start putting out their long, dangly vines, and you need to regularly prune them. Shop Wine Presses
It is recommended that the vines be planted in a very sunny area, with good soil drainage and nutrient-poor soils.  When growing grapes for wine, stressing out the plant a bit is actually good for wines, as the plant will put all of its energy into reproduction (i.e. the grapes!!) resulting in super concentrated, higher quality fruit.
So, if I wish to continue making super-small batch wine like I am currently (i.e. using the 6 gallon fermenters and carboys), how much should I plant?  According to what I’ve read, it takes about 10 pounds of grapes to make a gallon of wine.  Therefore, in order to make a small batch of wine, you’d need to plant about 10-20 vines. I should probably keep that in mind when I’m looking for a new home, and hope the yard is big enough to squeeze 10-20 vines in!
Anyone else out there growing grapes for wine?

leigh_erwin_bioMy name is Leigh Erwin, and I am a brand-spankin’ new home winemaker! E. C. Kraus has asked me to share with you my journey from a first-time dabbler to an accomplished home winemaker. From time to time I’ll be checking in with this blog and reporting my experience with you: the good, bad — and the ugly.