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New vineyard and new to forum - SW Virginia

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bshef

Highland Meadow Vineyard
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Good morning; I just discovered the introduction forum. On May 7, 2019 my husband and I planted 1/4 acre of grapes in Southwestern Virginia, zone 6a, elevation 2000 feet.
We planted:
25 Vidal Blanc
25 Traminette
25 Chardonel
25 Cayuga White
25 Chambourcin
25 Chelois
11 Norton
20 Marechal Foch
15 DeChauac
15 Chancellor
2 Riesling
2 Cab Franc
2 Pinot Noir
2 Merlot - we'll see how well the Merlot, Chardonnay and Cab Sav do in zone 6a
2 Chardonnay
2 Cab Sav

My plan is to have 3 acres under vine when I retire; hopefully Spring 2024 but no later than Fall 2026. I plan to grow some vinifera (Riesling, Cab Franc and Pinot Noir) but that will be my last planting before retirement. Now I'm trying to decide how much to plant in 2020 and which varieties. I'm satisfied with my hybrid white choices so I'll be adding to their number. I want more of all the reds but also want to try Marquette and perhaps Baco Noir or Noriet. I understand Baco should do well in my heavy clay soil (Frederick silt loam) but Noriet may make superior wine. I'm concerned that Noriet has low yields - I'm pressed for cleared acreage - most of our 19 acres are wooded and a considerable part is a sink-hole. To add to the mix, I work in Washington, DC so my vineyard is only tended every couple weeks. That's why the vinifera portions will have to wait until I am much closer to retirement. I'm doing everything on a shoestring budget as well.

Anyway, I'm happy to be jointing the forum and have learned a lot from viewing all the posts. We don't have many wineries in the Southwestern part of Virginia so I'm in hopes we can join the few. Any and all advice is welcome!
 

bshef

Highland Meadow Vineyard
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Thanks so much! I know I've lost my mind but I'm so impressed with the support from every corner. In Virginia, when you say you are thinking of growing grapes, you have tons of people (Va Tech research team, other growers/wineries, Piedmont Community College Viticulture Program) offering support and information. No investors - though there are state grants for new growers. I even have people asking when I'll have grapes for sale to home winemakers.
 

salcoco

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personally I would stick to the hybrids and most resistant to disease. right now you are feeling youthful and full of vigor. give your self another 5 years at retirement and anything you do to reduce the workload will be beneficial. I would increase you Norton planting. Impressive plans Good luck
 

bshef

Highland Meadow Vineyard
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Thanks so much for the encouragement! I am going to increase the Norton. Double A could only sell me 11 Norton vines this year. I'm really going for the hardiest most disease resistant so I am concentrating on the hybrids. If I get the Virginia Farm Winery license I can buy up to 49% of the grapes I use in production; that may be my vinifera "crop". Buying grapes is a little known (dirty little?) secret of a lot of Virginia wineries.
 

Tony Toto

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Thanks so much! I know I've lost my mind but I'm so impressed with the support from every corner. In Virginia, when you say you are thinking of growing grapes, you have tons of people (Va Tech research team, other growers/wineries, Piedmont Community College Viticulture Program) offering support and information. No investors - though there are state grants for new growers. I even have people asking when I'll have grapes for sale to home winemakers.
Hi. If you're looking to raise funds to aid in the growth of your new wine business, maybe I can help. I recently started a crowdfunding platform exclusive for the wine industry. Let me know if you want more information. Maybe we can chat one-on-one. In the meantime, keep working at it.
 

wood1954

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welcome! that's a lot of grapes. I planted 60 vines on approx 1/4 acre 8 ft apart and 8 ft between rows, how have you setup your vineyard? every couple weeks isn't too bad as long as you keep up your spray programs. Good Luck
 

Ignoble Grape

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Welcome! I'm so inspired by your story! Love that you're doing it while working and then planning on FT when you transition! I'm playing with that dream as well - tho retirement is a ways off!
 

mainshipfred

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Thanks so much for the encouragement! I am going to increase the Norton. Double A could only sell me 11 Norton vines this year. I'm really going for the hardiest most disease resistant so I am concentrating on the hybrids. If I get the Virginia Farm Winery license I can buy up to 49% of the grapes I use in production; that may be my vinifera "crop". Buying grapes is a little known (dirty little?) secret of a lot of Virginia wineries.
The 51/49% rule has been on the books for a long time just never strictly enforced. It's my understanding they are cracking down now. I'm involved in 2 Va Farm Winery projects and the later of the 2 is having trouble getting their license since their crop is not yet planted.
 

bshef

Highland Meadow Vineyard
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Thanks for the encouragement Ignoble Grape!

Mainshipfred, I'd like to get my VA Farm Winery license sooner rather than later so I'm interested in the process.

Also, I've heard there is a push in Virginia to restrict leasing of venue space to wineries that grow and make their own wine. Several wineries are growing but the wine is made by another winery or processor.
 

mainshipfred

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Thanks for the encouragement Ignoble Grape!

Mainshipfred, I'd like to get my VA Farm Winery license sooner rather than later so I'm interested in the process.

Also, I've heard there is a push in Virginia to restrict leasing of venue space to wineries that grow and make their own wine. Several wineries are growing but the wine is made by another winery or processor.
I believe the term is "Custom Crush" when someone makes wine for someone else.
 

bshef

Highland Meadow Vineyard
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Thanks! So many terms and so much to learn. No wonder I keep dreaming (nightmares?) about vines, trellis, weeds, bugs...soon cold and freezing temps.
 

bshef

Highland Meadow Vineyard
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Sorry Wood1954, missed your question. I set up 250 ft rows, 9 feet between the rows, 6 feet between the hybrids and 4 feet between the vinifera. I'm going to set the trellis line posts 18 feet apart. My husband (the tractor driver) would like more space between the rows so we are in negotiation for next Spring planting. :) If I give him more between row space I may space the vines a little closer. Some vineyards are planting vinifera 3 feet apart.
 

e-wine

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Out of curiosity, why so many different varieties? Also, how much experience do you have with growing grapes? I know this is a winemaking forum and we like to have as many different experiences as possible but just curious why you selected the varieties/numbers that you did.
 

bshef

Highland Meadow Vineyard
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Why so many varieties? Lack of experience, partly my lack of experience growing wine grapes on my farm but mostly lack of any experience growing wine grapes in my region. Virginia is home to 312 wineries, however, the majority of the vineyards are in Central and Northern Virginia. Both areas have vastly different climate than we have. We are in USDA zone 6a, elevation 2100 feet, with a frost-free growing season from mid-May to October (first frost/freeze any time after October 1). We have one other winery in our county and one in an adjoining county. So I tried to research the varieties grown by the few wineries within 50 to 100 miles, researched cool climate varieties with emphasis on hardiness and disease resistance. We only planted ¼ acre to start and test out the varieties; we’ll probably settle on fewer varieties as we increase the size of the vineyard. It does seem like a lot of different varieties but many small wineries are growing ten or eleven varieties. The entire state Virginia has unpredictable growing seasons so I expect everyone tries to hedge their bets.

As far as growing grapes, I've been growing Concord for 40 years but never wine grapes. like many others in Virginia, I planted the vines then started taking viticulture classes at Piedmont Community College to find out what we did wrong.
 

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