Need advice on selecting varietal to plant

Discussion in 'Grape Growing & Vineyard Forum' started by peterseng, Dec 7, 2018.

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  1. Dec 7, 2018 #1

    peterseng

    peterseng

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    This fall I made wine from fresh grapes for the first time, and I fell in love! I have decided that I want to plant some vines in my yard so I can make wine one day from grapes I raised with my own hands. I don't have room for more than a dozen or so, and I am having some trouble deciding what to plant. I would love to plant two varietals (one for red wine, one for white). I researched growing requirements of several varieties that I was considering, as well as climate statistics in my area in an effort to narrow the field, and I am now concerned that I may not be able to grow wine grapes at all.

    I live in Jim Thorpe, PA, and the statistics I've found for my neighborhood are as follows:
    Growing Degree Days average near 2300-2400 (through 10/31)
    Average Annual Rainfall approx 50 inches (US average is 39)
    Average Annual sunny days = 196 (US average is 205)

    So it seems that my neighborhood is rather wet, less sunny than average and has a relatively short growing season. As a result, I plan to do what I can for drainage with gutters and/or trenches (too small a plot for drain tiles - and i'm not sure I want to invest that much $ to plant 10 vines). I also realize I will probably do better with a variety that ripens more quickly, as my growing season is less than ideal. I also know that there are successful vineyards in areas with shorter growing seasons, so I am certain that there must be SOME variety of grape from which I can make a decent wine. I could use some suggestions/advice from some of the more experienced folks here in deciding what factors are most important in selecting the kind of grape vine to plant.
    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. Dec 7, 2018 #2

    sour_grapes

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    Some common advice is to check with local vineyards. I just checked out a couple near you, viz., Big Creek and Blue Lizard
    http://bigcreekvineyard.com/dryred.html
    https://www.bluelizardwinery.com/index.php?id=9

    They both offer Chambourcin (a hybrid variety) and Pinot Noir; Big Creek uses some other hybrids, too (Marechal Foch, Frontenac, Regent). You should give them a call. In fact, Blue Lizard has a "Vine Club" where you can get actual experience in the vineyard:
    https://www.bluelizardwinery.com/index.php?id=3
     
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  3. Dec 7, 2018 #3

    peterseng

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    Vine club, eh? That sounds worth checking out! I will also check some of the climate data for the locations of those two vineyards to see how much they vary from my location.

    One factor I've found in my climate research is that in PA there are apparently "micro-climates" that vary quite a bit even within a few miles of each other. There are several vineyards growing Chambourcin quite successfully (which made me think I might have success with that vine) only about 30 miles from me. When I saw that my GDD was so low (a site I researched recommended a minimum of 3000 GDD to mature Chambourcin) I looked at these vineyards and their area had a 15 year average GDD of just under the 3000 goal. I hadn't expected such a dramatic climate difference within such a short distance! I also wonder if I may also be putting too much stock in such data...
     
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  4. Dec 7, 2018 #4

    ibglowin

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    You left off one of the biggest factors in deciding what to grow in your neck of the woods. That being average low temps during the Winter months. I would go with a Cold Hardy Hybrid. There are some fantastic ones out today that are rivaling Vinifera (both red and white). Poke around on the Double A Vineyard website as they carry just about all of them. You do need to place an order within the next month or so or many of them will already be sold out for next Spring.
     
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  5. Dec 7, 2018 #5

    peterseng

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    Regarding average low temps, my area has an average low in January of 18 degrees. What information I am lacking is just how often it gets cold enough to damage the vines I am considering. I am familiar with the Double A website, and have already spent a decent amount of time browsing the many varieties they have available - but I have only found a handful that seem like they would be a good match for my particular "micro-climate" and have not yet tasted any wines made with them, so I am hesitant to plant them at this point. I will definitely try to order soon, though, if they will be selling out soon, as you say. Thanks for the heads up on that. Mike!
     
  6. Dec 7, 2018 #6

    sour_grapes

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    Wow, that is a shockingly big difference. I fully admit I only looked on the map as the crow flies!
     
  7. Dec 7, 2018 #7

    GreginND

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    I would recommend Crimson Pearl. It is an amazingly complex grape and will even grow in North Dakota.
     
  8. Dec 7, 2018 #8

    peterseng

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    I was shocked too. On the plus side, your advice gave me the idea of looking at climate data in the area of some of the local vineyards and then see what they are producing. So far one of the two you mentioned (Big Creek) has climate conditions that are pretty similar to my own (they are only about 15 miles away) and they have a tasting room that is literally walking distance from my house, so I think I may know where my family can find me tomorrow afternoon ;)
     
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  9. Dec 7, 2018 #9

    peterseng

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    Thanks for the suggestion! I've never heard of that particular grape so I will definitely check it out. Have you cultivated and made wine with those?
     
  10. Dec 8, 2018 #10

    Newine

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    Itasca for a white, pretty new release, I am adding 25 to my little vineyard next year. Good numbers reported.
     
  11. Dec 8, 2018 #11

    tom6922

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    I live in southeast Michigan and have been growing reds (Frontenac, Marquette, Noiret, Cab Franc) and whites (Seyval, Lacrescent, Traminette). Marquette has a number of great advantages over the other reds: very fruitful and much earlier ripening (so less bird and bee damage, less disease damage, less tending, less spraying, etc). Among the whites I like Lacrescent, which ripens several weeks later than Marquette but earlier than the other whites. But if you have limited space, I would go with just one varietal. Each varietal adds complexity and extra work, you want this this to be enjoyable, not a job.
     
  12. Dec 9, 2018 #12

    BigH

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    According to what I found, your last spring frost is around May 26, and your first fall frost is around Oct 6. That is a pretty brief growing season. The GDD tool that I use shows that you normally accumulate about 2300 GDD by the middle of September. This year you had 2500 by then. The USDA map looks like it has you in zone 6B, -5 to -10 F.

    My advice is to look for an early ripening white. I harvest my Brianna and Edelwiess around 18 and 15 brix when they have gotten 2100-2300 GDD of sun, and chaptalize them to the desired sugar level. They are more winter hardy then you probably need. That doesn't hurt anything, but it does allow you to research other varieties. Definitely look for early ripening though.

    For a red, I think Greg's suggestion of Crimson Pearl should be the first variety you look at. Marquette might be another one to consider. It ripens earlier than most other varieties, but it does need a little sun to get the acids down. Again, both of those are more winter hardy than you probably need. Getting fruit ripened seems like it will be a bigger concern for you. With that in mind, I would personally avoid these varieties: Petite Pearl, Verona, and anything with Frontenac in the name.

    Good luck
    H
     
  13. Dec 9, 2018 #13

    StevenD55

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    FWIW Here in Colorado we are likely drier in the summer. So mildew is rare. But as for cold hardiness, I haven’t had many problems with Cold weather varieties even thru the -10 to -20 stretches. I have Frontenac, Marquette, Valiant, Aurore and Noiret. A few I have are even Zone 6. My neighbors have Foch, Chardonnel and Limberger that do well of the varieties I think are worthwhile anyway.

    The biggest problem with the extreme cold-hardy grapes (Valiant and even Marquette) is that they try to bud too early. Then the frost gets them. The varieties that bud just a little later seem to have a better chance of working through Spring freezes.
     
  14. Dec 10, 2018 #14

    peterseng

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    Thanks for the suggestions! I took a look at Marquette and it seems like a good match. My biggest concern is that (from what I've read) the acidity is rather high. I don't have much experience managing acidity at that level. Do you have any suggestions for addressing that?
     
  15. Dec 10, 2018 #15

    peterseng

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    I agree that getting the fruit ripened will definitely be a bigger concern than hardiness (which is not to say that is NOT a concern, lol). I will definitely be considering both Marquette and Crimson Pearl. If I end up deciding on just one grape to plant, I do believe that I would prefer to go with a red wine grape, as I prefer to drink red wine. Not much point in me planting something I won't want to drink, lol!
     
  16. Dec 10, 2018 #16

    peterseng

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    Thanks for the warning about early budding, Steve. That is one aspect I hadn't thought to consider, but an important one!
     
  17. Dec 10, 2018 #17

    Newine

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    Petite Pearl And Crimson Pearl were bred by Tom Plocher to hold dormancy and delay bud break. He is out of Minnesota. Worth a Google. These grow very far north and have better acid, tannins and brix than most hybrids.
     
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  18. Dec 10, 2018 #18

    StevenD55

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    Are crimson pearl clusters as small as petit pearl?

    That’s one reason why I’m replacing some of my present Valiant vines with Noiret. Berry weight is 50% larger and fewer seeds per berry.
     
  19. Dec 11, 2018 #19

    Newine

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    Valiant is commonly not even classified as a wine grape ( check University of Minnesota classifications and doulble a vineyards, they say it's a juice and jam variety) so I can see replacing it as you say you plan to. I am sure some one is making good wine from it, that said, crimson and petite are sister vines and so are probably very similar in berry size. They are very new releases that have the chemistry to make much better wines than a lot of hybrids. I have Noiret, Foch and Frontenac growing as far as reds go and am adding Petite next year. Noiret is producing less wine then the other two, but better chemistry if you will and is easier to make a good wine from. I continue to add newer, better wine making vines to my hobby vineyard based on what I have read relative to lower acid, as this is a big challenge with Midwest wine making. My second criteria is no hybrid foxiness in flavors, trying to get closer to a vinfera like product. You should check out Plochers website, little clunky but you can find where a May 14 freeze caught Marquette, but Petite Pearl was not damaged due to later budding. With brix around 24, pH around 3.4 and 9 g/l acid it's got some great numbers to work with. I even read about some folks getting acids so low they had to add tartaric, much like a vinefera. Plocher suggests 4 to 5 foot spacing in row, so the yield can be increased, compared to 8 foot I have done in the past. I've also read a lengthy article recently that suggests berry shading reduces berry size, so aside from developing better maturity in the grape, leaf pruning should help increase berry size, so that might help with that concern of yours. As far as whites I have had luck with making decent wine from Seyval Blanc but added a row of Chardonel last year and am adding Itasca this coming year also. Only mention to show I am trying to improve my plantings white and red. Each of my rows are about 200 feet long, so I am not a serious producer. I have a little college credit on the subject and tons of reading, but I am still trying to learn like everyone else on here. Hope this long post helps to provide food for thought.
     
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  20. Dec 11, 2018 #20

    StevenD55

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    I’m not a big producer either. Coincidentally, my rows are also about 200’.

    Yeah I know on Valiant. MN is not the authority on Valiants though being developed at SDSU. Table Mountain is one of the only remaining wineries I know making wine commercially from Valiant. But I figured out how to get most of the “foxiness” out with help from this forum. I got 400# of those this year and didn’t even pick one row. So, I’m looking to replace 50 vines or so.

    My point is that I don’t want any more varietals with tiny, labor intensive clusters. Canopy management favors Noiret as well, of course. (I have a study on that somewhere). So I doubt that would make up the deficit in size.

    By the way, someone talked about acidity in Marquette. My understanding is that it is not normally a varietal known for high acidity. What we’ve noticed here though is that a lot of cold hearty grapes that have higher acidity common in cold weather varietals it seems can be mitigated by harvesting with higher sugar and hence later in the season, if it doesn’t snow. Maybe petit pearl would benefit from later harvests here as well. A pH of 3.4 is a bit more acidic than I like personally.

    As to my question though, is crimson pearl also a varietal that produces small grapes and tiny clusters? I don’t think I read the answer to that.

    Regards.
     

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