Dreaming for now...

Ok,  so we may be jumping the gun a little with the title above.   In reality, we only have 6 grape vines in the ground, and those were planted just last year.   But this is the year that we will start to transform the hillside into our little dream “vineyard”.   Arriving in just a few weeks will be our much-anticipated grape vines that were ordered over the winter.  A large majority of our property includes a sloping hill which leads down to the barn, garden, and chicken coop area.  Our long-term plan is to site our future house at the top of the hill, overlooking the property.  From the day we first cleared the land, we began to imagine ourselves sitting on our back porch overlooking a small “vineyard” while gazing down at our barn and watching the chickens roam.  It’s hard to believe that the time is here to begin to make that dream a reality.

Last year, as an experiment, we planted a portion of our first row of grapes – which will be our table and jam grapes.

Looking up from the barn... The hill was covered with snow this past weekend - but soon enough grape vines will be planted, and someday at the top....a house.

These consisted of a few vines each from the Concord, Reliance, and Mars varieties. We planted them in early part of the summer, which wasn’t the most ideal time to plant grapes – but we got them on a clearance sale, and thought we’d give it a try.  We planted 12 in all – with six of the cuttings actually surviving. (we kept hoping for the best with the other six –  looking for growth each week – but we are now convinced they have been converted to compost!).

This year we are on target for a proper early spring planting for the rest of the table grapes and our wine grapes.  Our plans call for a total of four long rows consisting of 10 vines each, spaced 8-10 feet apart, and trellised on poles and lines.

What we HOPE our rows will look like in a few years!

Planting on the hillside slope allows for adequate drainage and for full sun, which is important for the production of quality grapes in the future.  We spent a lot of time researching which varieties of grapes that we wanted to plant, knowing that making our own wine and jam was in our “5 year plan”.   We selected the Concord variety for the jam.  Concord is the most common grape in the United States and is known as a heavy producer and THE grape to have when you plan to make jelly, juices, and jams. The Reliance and Mars grapes will provide us with an adequate amount of table grapes to eat.

The choice for our wine grape - The University of Minnesota's Marquette variety

Our wine grapes will make up the final three of the four long rows of our little vineyard. I guess it’s easy to see that wine may be more of a future demand for us than jelly and juice! 🙂   We just figure that the teenagers will soon be adults – so our demand for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches will be dropping in 5 years, and they will all be in college – so we will need the wine to get us through!

We considered using the Catawba, an Ohio staple wine grape variety.  However, due to it’s susceptibility to disease, we continued to research other varieties which would work well in our planting zone.  We finally decided on the Marquette grape.  This is a relatively new, cold hardy grape variety developed by the University of Minnesota. It has a great wine heritage being a cousin of Frontenac and a grandson of Pinot Noir.  It’s a high sugar, moderately acidic grape that produces a wine with hints of cherry and blackberry in a vibrant ruby color.  At least that is what it supposed to do – we will see how it actually turns out when we make it!

Although thoughts of sipping our own wine while we sit on that yet to be built back porch is our dream, we realize that it will be at least 3 years before we can harvest enough of the fruit to even make our first test batch of wine.  So for now, we have to concentrate on the task of planting the vines and setting the poles to provide support for them to begin to climb.  Those vines are due to arrive in just a few weeks from the nursery – and yes Jim, that means we need to dig 35 more holes!

– Mary

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