Finding grapes

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winemaker81

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For folks on the east coast USA, finding grapes can be tough. When I lived in NY, there were several vineyards that were happy to sell to home winemakers. Many vineyards don't as they want to sell grapes by the ton, not the lug, and I can see their point.

When I moved to NC I had a hard time finding grapes, and the ones I found were low quality, so I switched to kits (this was 20+ years ago). In 2019 I was talking to the owner of a LHBS, and he put me in touch with the group I've been part of since then. We do a bulk order of west coast USA grapes, getting a better price on the grapes and on shipping.

Shipping is expensive. I look at west coast prices, and we pay as much as 50% more because of shipping. Folks buying must buckets pay even more than that.

Beth (@VinesnBines) mentioned that this year VA growers have dumped grapes this year because they couldn't sell them. Anyone in VA or surrounding states might be able to get some late grapes now, from vineyards that normally don't sell to home winemakers.

Which circles back to our problem -- most vineyards don't want to sell in small quantities.

One solution is to form a local buying group to increase purchase power, although that requires finding people to join it. One idea is what I did -- ask at a LHBS. This requires having a LHBS nearby, which is often true in the USA, and possibly Canada, but not necessarily in other countries.

This forum is another option, but regardless of how much traffic we have, WMT is a small part of any local winemaker population.

Another option in the USA is an American Wine Society chapter. When I was a member, about half the members of the chapters I was with were winemakers. If there is a local chapter, it's an opportunity to connect with other winemakers.

Does anyone have any other ideas?
 
Grow your own? How large of a vineyard does it take to make say, 50L of wine?
More space than I have! ;)


I purchased 2 lots of 130 lbs (60 kg) of grapes from @VinesnBines, and netted nearly 40 liters from each batch. She'll have to chime in on how many vines that is, and it varies by varietal and season. It's quite a few vines.

My lot is 1.5 acres ... but the back 1/3 is wooded and I have trees on either side of the house. I have 1 area that might work, but the varietals I want don't grow here. I investigated that 20+ years ago and was sorely disappointed!
 
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We have an excellent group that we get west coast grapes and juice from in the fall. There is a fruit market near Baltimore that imports wine grapes and a vendor in New Jersey, about a 3 hour drive, to get spring grapes so not awful.

I'm also fortunate to live in one of the country's better wine regions and have access (through networking) to a variety vinifera grapes.

I guess I should consider myself lucky.
 
I guess I should consider myself lucky.
Ditto. I have options and am happy to have them.

This post was driven by Beth's comment about vineyards dumping grapes because they could not sell them, the cost of having west coast grapes shipped east, and folks commenting over the last few years that they don't have access to grapes.

After 20 years of no options other than kits, I was so excited to find a local group. We have members driving up to 3 hours to pick up their grapes in Durham.

My hope is that folks in need of grapes can work out a system such as what you and I have, to provide the grapes they want.
 
She'll have to chime in on how many vines that is, and it varies by varietal and season. It's quite a few vines.
It does vary CONSIDERABLY by varietal, season, and location. For me, 10 to 12 vines of Chambourcin will yield 130 lbs. On the other hand, 80 vines of Marquette only yielded 90 lbs. The differences are timing of budbreak, size of grapes and general suitability to site. So my answer is "It depends."
 
It does vary CONSIDERABLY by varietal, season, and location. For me, 10 to 12 vines of Chambourcin will yield 130 lbs. On the other hand, 80 vines of Marquette only yielded 90 lbs. The differences are timing of budbreak, size of grapes and general suitability to site. So my answer is "It depends."
How old are your Chambourcin and Marquette?
My oldest Chambourcin are six years old, but my Marquette are only four years old. This year, the Chambourcin yield was 10 times that of the Marquette. I have put that off to early Spring warm spells and the climate in the Mid Shenandoah Valley (VA).
If that's the best they can do, maybe I should replace them.
 
How old are your Chambourcin and Marquette?
My oldest Chambourcin are six years old, but my Marquette are only four years old. This year, the Chambourcin yield was 10 times that of the Marquette. I have put that off to early Spring warm spells and the climate in the Mid Shenandoah Valley (VA).
If that's the best they can do, maybe I should replace them.
Both the Chambourcin and Marquette are in the fourth year. The Marquette break first in the vineyard and the Chambourcin is last. The Marquette are always killed by frost. Part of the problem is the location of Marquette in the vineyard and the rest is the early bud break..
 
Thanks! This was the first year I managed to get any quantity of Marquette past the second frost in my area, but even then, they were mighty thin on the vine.
I'll keep an eye on them this winter, but it may be getting on time to consider them an experiment that failed.
 
Thanks! This was the first year I managed to get any quantity of Marquette past the second frost in my area, but even then, they were mighty thin on the vine.
I'll keep an eye on them this winter, but it may be getting on time to consider them an experiment that failed.
Are you near Gloucester, VA? How late was your last frost? How early did they break?
 
I managed a 20 acre commercial vineyard for the community that I lived in for 10 years. It was more work selling 200 pounds to a new home winemaker than 5 tons to a commercial winery, so I know why vineyards don’t do it. What did work well was when a group of home winemakers would collectively organize and present themselves as a single buyer. I would communicate with one person, I would lend them macro bins, I would get paid by one person and then they would divide the grapes up amongst themselves after I was out of the picture.

I would also work with big home winemaker buyers directly, like @crushday. Mostly though, it is about relationships and meeting each others needs.
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It was more work selling 200 pounds to a new home winemaker than 5 tons to a commercial winery, so I know why vineyards don’t do it. What did work well was when a group of home winemakers would collectively organize and present themselves as a single buyer. I would communicate with one person, I would lend them macro bins, I would get paid by one person and then they would divide the grapes up amongst themselves after I was out of the picture.
Exactly! There has to be a way to solve this problem for everyone. Information and partnerships are key.
 
It would be nice to get better pricing, here in NJ its difficult to get a Winery license, with that license there are sizable discounts. We by over 3000 lbs of grapes every year and are paying retail for everything. There are "Wine Schools" who are able to get a limited Winery license and also get sizable discounts.
I was told by our supplied in PA, there's guys running so called Winery's out of apartment, they buy juice buckets and sell the wine....
Would be nice to combine our order and get better pricing.

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I managed a 20 acre commercial vineyard for the community that I lived in for 10 years. It was more work selling 200 pounds to a new home winemaker than 5 tons to a commercial winery, so I know why vineyards don’t do it. What did work well was when a group of home winemakers would collectively organize and present themselves as a single buyer. I would communicate with one person, I would lend them macro bins, I would get paid by one person and then they would divide the grapes up amongst themselves after I was out of the picture.
Thanks for confirming from the other side of the fence.

This year our group ordered 2-3/4 tons of grapes, and that doesn't include part of the group in Charlotte (we are in Durham) who ran their own order as we had to transport the grapes ourselves from Ashland VA to Durham NC. We received a slight discount per lug and negotiated a better shipping rate from Gino Pinto's NJ location to their Ashland location.

Musto is in CT and Pinto is in NJ -- if we could find a supplier closer to NC, we could probably reduce shipping costs.

A lot of NC wineries buy west coast USA grapes, but they probably negotiate directly with the vineyards.
 
Thanks for confirming from the other side of the fence.

This year our group ordered 2-3/4 tons of grapes, and that doesn't include part of the group in Charlotte (we are in Durham) who ran their own order as we had to transport the grapes ourselves from Ashland VA to Durham NC. We received a slight discount per lug and negotiated a better shipping rate from Gino Pinto's NJ location to their Ashland location.

Musto is in CT and Pinto is in NJ -- if we could find a supplier closer to NC, we could probably reduce shipping costs.

A lot of NC wineries buy west coast USA grapes, but they probably negotiate directly with the vineyards.
On the years that I couldn't move all the grapes locally, I would move the less desirable vineyard grapes through a broker out of Ohio, who in turn moved them on the east coast. We would transport them to refrigerated storage facility in central CA and then it would get refrigerated transport to the east coast shortly thereafter. The cost of the broker grapes delivered to the transport location was typically $.65 per pound, versus $.75-$1.00 per pound sold to local wineries.
 
On the years that I couldn't move all the grapes locally, I would move the less desirable vineyard grapes through a broker out of Ohio, who in turn moved them on the east coast. We would transport them to refrigerated storage facility in central CA and then it would get refrigerated transport to the east coast shortly thereafter. The cost of the broker grapes delivered to the transport location was typically $.65 per pound, versus $.75-$1.00 per pound sold to local wineries.
We have a variety of vineyards available through both Musto and Pinto, including Lanza. Supposedly we're getting good grapes, not lesser desirable ones ... although that's something we have to take on faith.
 
On the years that I couldn't move all the grapes locally, I would move the less desirable vineyard grapes through a broker out of Ohio, who in turn moved them on the east coast. We would transport them to refrigerated storage facility in central CA and then it would get refrigerated transport to the east coast shortly thereafter. The cost of the broker grapes delivered to the transport location was typically $.65 per pound, versus $.75-$1.00 per pound sold to local wineries.
What are you referring to when you say less desirable?
 
We have a variety of vineyards available through both Musto and Pinto, including Lanza. Supposedly we're getting good grapes, not lesser desirable ones ... although that's something we have to take on faith.
We've used Lanza, Mettler, Lodi, and other Central Valley grapes. By comparison, the Lanza-Musto is better than the Mettler and head and shoulders above what we can get from the Central Valley. Gorgeous berries, very few raisins, and minimal MOG. Even the bins look really good.

I've never personally seen the fruit that California wineries purchase so I cannot compare it to that. But I can only imagine how good they are if they're better than what we see from Lanza.

Keep the faith, baby.
 
On the years that I couldn't move all the grapes locally, I would move the less desirable vineyard grapes through a broker out of Ohio, who in turn moved them on the east coast. We would transport them to refrigerated storage facility in central CA and then it would get refrigerated transport to the east coast shortly thereafter. The cost of the broker grapes delivered to the transport location was typically $.65 per pound, versus $.75-$1.00 per pound sold to local wineries.
Just a guess. Is the Ohio supplier Collinwood in Cleveland?
 
I currently have 4 sources for grapes from local winery/vineyards. They all seem to have the same issue with selling small quantities to home winemakers. That being the hand holding they've experienced in the past. They know I'll bring my brutes, load the grapes, pay them, give them wine then off I go. Of course I will ask for the anticipated numbers before making the commitment but have no problem getting 2-300 lbs.

The only issue I had this year was waiting dragging my feet on getting Tannat which does very well in Virginia. The 2 that I get it from both had already pitched the yeast which makes it wine and they can't sell it to me.
 
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