New (old) home with vineyard owner

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SandiaSlice

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Corrales, NM
Hi,
My name is Sean Coston. sure am glad I happened upon this website as it seems to be a nice community with a lot of aggregate knowledge and experience.
My friend Jess and I just bought a home in Corrales, NM that has a small vineyard on site. According to the seller of the home, there are 4 old Chardonnay vines and most of the rest of the vines are Cabernet Sauvignon. I don't know if they are on grafted root-stock, but they are reportedly productive and appear to have grown well in upper Corrales' sandy soil. A neighbor I just met tells me they can be very productive if well cared for (he's been in the neighborhood for 15 years). Then at the far end of the vineyard, there are supposedly 3 ZinfandeI vines that "have never really done well." There is a lot of empty space in the vineyard, and I plan on populating the empty areas with new vines this spring. Corrales and Bernalillo communities along the Rio Grande have a long history of wine making, but not all grapes do well here. For the new vines, I've chosen half Chamboursin and half Errante Noir. I have a friend who grows Chamboursin grapes a few miles north and on property a little more fertile and closer to the river, he also has Baco Noir, which apparently NEED the more fertile soil... He makes very good and complex red wine, and I'm hoping the Chamboursin take well at my site. The Errante Noir decision was based on some research I did online about growing in sandy southwest soils in high hot areas (all characteristics of my vineyard), and I'm hoping it's a good decision as well.

The previous homeowner made wine in his garage. I'm building a workshop and digging a small cantina basement area for winemaking - to store carboys, barrels, vats, tanks, etc. I'm hoping the cantina will help me to control temperature and humidity better than in a garage. The vineyard area is only about 4 tenths of an acre. The cantina basement area I'm planning is only 15 x 20ft.
I guess what I'd like to hear from the group here is what things should I be thinking about when designing the cantina, and any considerations for the new vines going into the ground? Pointing to specific posts here and other resources would be helpful.

For the Cantina: For such a small vineyard, Is that too large or is it too small? I'm planning on incorporating a mini-split into the cantina in case the temperature does not control itself... It can get fairly hot here in summer. I'm going to put a drain in the floor and have a sewer pump to get drainage up to a french drain at 18" below ground level away from the building (we have septic systems, no sewer lines, and the home's septic field is on the other side of the property).

For the new vines: Is it ok to "mix" planting grapes in a row or in areas of the vineyard as long as I keep track of what is what? When I plant the new vines, should I modify the soil with compost or anything (The vines already in the vineyard look like they'e grown really well here despite very sandy soil with little loamy character)?

I am attaching some pictures of the vineyard and some concept images for my workshop/cantina/studio...

Happy to join this community. Hoping to gain a lot of knowledge, and eventually, to be able to contribute with experience... Right now I'm a super noob... Never made wine before, but looking forward to the adventure.

Sean

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Welcome. I’m not sure what kind of yield you can expect in NM, but with our short seasons in WI we can still get 15lbs per vine on mature vines… that’s roughly a gallon of wine each!

I think the space is fine. There are certainly folks here who make more with less space. What you need to consider is how you are going to move all that must/wine/equipment into and out of a basement. I’m building a basement winery right now. I made the stairs 5 feet wide and I’ll build a lift (think chair lift) along one side that can handle full brute fermenters. Your other option is an elevator or dumb waiter type setup.

If you invest in some rolling carts and a vacuum transfer system you can really minimize the heavy lifting.
 
Welcome to WMT! What a wonderful adventure! Looking forward to hearing your progress~ and ask away when you have a question, there are lots of friendly folks here with a ton of experience.
 
Welcome to WMT. You should (if you have not already) hook up with the New Mexico Vine and Wine Society MRG (Middle Rio Grande) Chapter.

https://mrg.nmvineandwine.org/

You will find lots of people who live close by and have been growing grapes in your area for years. They will know what works and what doesn't work so well. They also have a FB page that you might want to subscribe to as well.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/151253151583848

Again welcome.
 
Welcome @SandiaSlice (watermelon slice?) It appears that there are many empty spots in your trellis. One thing to note is that many vineyards have areas where the vines thrive and other areas that struggle due to the unknown geology beneath the ground surface. Don’t be surprised if new vines struggle in those areas. Of course, who knows exactly why you have dead spots?

Mix and match vines in a row are okay, but if you have a lot of varieties ripening at different times of the year, there is more work involved.
 
Welcome to WMT!

As for mixing and matching the rows, I would put some kind of marker on the support post designating what it is - and make a map of the vineyard so you have the same info on paper as vineyard markers fade over time… trust me on that one - fabric ribbons, paint, and sharpies faded out in less than a year in my vineyard.

BTW - my brother lives about 30 miles away from you so I know the area. Beautiful country!
 
Welcome @SandiaSlice (watermelon slice?) It appears that there are many empty spots in your trellis. One thing to note is that many vineyards have areas where the vines thrive and other areas that struggle due to the unknown geology beneath the ground surface. Don’t be surprised if new vines struggle in those areas. Of course, who knows exactly why you have dead spots?

Mix and match vines in a row are okay, but if you have a lot of varieties ripening at different times of the year, there is more work involved.
Yes, "watermelon slice!" The mountains here in Albuquerque (of which Corrales is a suburb) I called the Sandia mountains. Ironically, I absolutely hate watermelon. But I've ran with that as a username for various places online.
Thank you for the information in regards to my question about the vines. I put all of the new vines as bare root plantings a few weeks ago when the Corrales 10-day forecast should no risk of any hard freeze. I protected the new plantings with blue tubes that I got from AA vineyards with the vine. 2 days after the planting, there was a soft freeze where the temperature got down to 31 or 32 , but the soil was still wet and the planting so hopefully that protected the new vines somewhat The soil here is super Sandy. I expect that over time I will need to modify it by adding compost. But I'm going to see how things go this first year without changing too many variables. I was able to get my two new different varietals planted in groups within the back of the vineyard. It should not be hard to keep track of....

Next jobs are trellis maintenance and fixing the irrigation system (irrigation is required in our hot dry climate).

I am attaching pictures of the vineyard after the planting of new vine.PXL_20240330_235354712.jpgPXL_20240330_210120304.jpg
 
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Welcome to WMT!

As for mixing and matching the rows, I would put some kind of marker on the support post designating what it is - and make a map of the vineyard so you have the same info on paper as vineyard markers fade over time… trust me on that one - fabric ribbons, paint, and sharpies faded out in less than a year in my vineyard.

BTW - my brother lives about 30 miles away from you so I know the area. Beautiful country!
Thanks for the advice Chris.

Already had that thought, and vineyard is mapped!

Excited for the growing season! Need to see how healthy the old vines are. They were horribly managed over time and allowed to overgrow. I'm doing a lot of reading and will try to get the old plants pruned properly to a trunk cordon 5 spur system over the next couple of years. The vineyard was neglected by one or both of the two previous owners, so I'm not sure about production this year, but in in 2 or 3 years the new Vine and the old Vine should be in good shape if I keep at it.PXL_20240321_222419783.jpg
 
New questions:

The old vines have leaved out and, despite not great pruning in the past, there seem to be a good number of nascent clusters... Not all vines look great though and some only have growth from the ground with the trunk and cordons looking like unhealthy or dead wood. I was assured by the previous owner that the established vines are all "own rooted" plants. Is advisable to lop off 90 % of a vine at the trunk even if the trunk is 8 or 10cm thick to basically start over? I think some of these vine have been allowed to overgrow vigorously for years...

Also, how frequently should I be watering in a high, sandy, desert -like environment? We get only 8in of rain a year, are at 5700ft, and it gets hot early... Any advice on how to determine when to water and how deep to water? I'm using a drip system with shower drip emitters.

Thanks in advance for any replies...

Sean
 
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New questions:

The old vines have leaved out and, despite not great pruning in the past, there seem to be a good number of nascent clusters... Not all vines look great though and some only have growth from the ground with the trunk and cordons looking like unhealthy or dead wood. I was assured by the previous owner that the established vines are all "own rooted" plants. Is advisable to lop off 90 % of a vine at the trunk even if the trunk is 8 or 10cm thick to basically start over? I think some of these vine have been allowed to overgrow vigorously for years...

Also, how frequently should I be watering in a high, sandy, desert -like environment? We get only 8in of rain a year, are at 5700ft, and it gets hot early... Any advice on how to determine when to water and how deep to water? I'm using a drip system with shower drip emitters.

Thanks in advance for any replies...

Sean
I get 36” of rain a year so no help on the irrigation!

How many vines do/will you have?
 
I get 36” of rain a year so no help on the irrigation!

How many vines do/will you have?
There are 4 very old Chardonnay, about 30 own-root Cabernet Sauvignon, 30 new Chamboursin grafted on 1103p rootstock, and 30 new Errante Noir on 1103p rootstock.

The new vines were planted March 31st, arguably a little early, but I used blue shelter tubes and we have 90 pct of them growing vigorously already...
 
Welcome!!

For such a small vineyard, Is that too large or is it too small?
Your wine making area is PLENTY! I operated a 20'x20' winery for 4 acres and it was doable utilizing vertical space and doing most of the harvesting/crushing work outside.

Is it ok to "mix" planting grapes in a row or in areas of the vineyard as long as I keep track of what is what?
Shouldn't be an issue for the vines! But it does make harvesting more difficult.

When I plant the new vines, should I modify the soil with compost or anything (The vines already in the vineyard look like they'e grown really well here despite very sandy soil with little loamy character)?
Should be fine! If creosote grows, wine will grow! (Though with much more water 😂)
I recommend doing a soil test, but don't let yourself get overwhelmed with data! The vines will tell you if something is wrong. Nitrogen is always in demand in vineyards, so a good drip irrigation urea fertilizer in the spring never goes amiss in my experience. Just be sure your irrigation is properly gapped from your home, you don't want that getting in your house supply. If not, just a soluble nitrogen fertilizer spread on the ground is also great! First rain will mix it in.

The new vines were planted March 31st, arguably a little early, but I used blue shelter tubes and we have 90 pct of them growing vigorously already...
That's a great sign! I just planted 350 Chenin Blanc for commercial use on 1103p also in a similar climate/soil. They're doing very well. I have not been disappointed with 1103p in hot sandy areas, but it does have a tendency to outgrow the graph early on. So keep an eye on it.
 
Also, how frequently should I be watering in a high, sandy, desert -like environment? We get only 8in of rain a year, are at 5700ft, and it gets hot early... Any advice on how to determine when to water and how deep to water? I'm using a drip system with shower drip emitters.
I recommend measuring regularly, at first, 6" deep, 12" away from the emitter. Water about 1 gallon per vine whenever that measurement begins to dry out. For me, that's about 1.5 hours on .5 gph drips ever 3 days in spring. We live in a similarly dry area. New vines will need more, especially right after planting.

At first a gallon doesn't seem like much, but it can build up under the first 12" of soil. If your soil is draining quickly and being on 1103p, you're unlikely to ever over water on accident or have mold issues.
 
About mix and match grapevines, a local winery has a Cab Sauv planting by the entrance. I walked the vines in August and saw 3 vines with white grapes which look like Rousanne on closer inspection. I asked the tasting room about it and yep some random vines slipped into the planting. It happens, and they just pick it along with the Cab and crush it all.
 
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