Since we have decided to plant a small vineyard this year, we figured it would be wise to get advice from someone experienced to help us decide what types of grapes to plant, where to plant them, and how to set up the vineyard. One of David's fellow teachers at Puxico is the owner of a winery in town called Indian Hills Winery, and earlier this month he invited us out to learn more about grapes and the wine making process.
The winery is located on beautiful land in the country with rolling hills and a nice pond situated on the edge of the vines. We first got a lesson on how to build fences to support the vines and David asked a lot of questions. I tried to pay very close attention but there were a couple of sweet pups following us around and I couldn't help but pet them a little and take some photos!
It turns out they weren't there just to be cute. Martie said that having several dogs in the vineyard is the best solution he has found to prevent deer from munching on his prized vines. We are keeping this in mind since we often see deer on our property and don't want them to be a problem.
Next we got a demonstration on how to prune vines. We headed over to several rows of Concord grapes, which is probably one of the more well-known varieties. Martie isn't too keen on them though because the vines tend to grow wildly each season and are hard to manage.
I was surprised at how much is actually cut off in the pruning process, but the majority of the wood produced in the previous season should be removed. This is a necessary step to allow for new growth in the upcoming season and yield a better harvest. Pruning is done when the grapes are dormant, between January and March each year.
After we were well versed on the fencing and pruning of the vines, we went inside the distillery to see how Martie turns all those grapes into wine.
We got a taste of some of the wine in process before any sugar or other additives were mixed in. It was a little dry for my taste as I do like sweeter wines, but it was neat to be able to taste it at this step and see how different it is from the final product.
David asked about how much wine they produce from their vines, and I was surprised to learn that from 1,200 vines they can get anywhere from 5,000 to 7,000 bottles of wine per year. Each vine produces about 30 pounds of grapes and it takes around 15 pounds of grapes to make a gallon of wine.
We learned so much and after our visit to the winery felt more confident in purchasing our own grape vines. So we came home and did just that! We have 32 Chambourcin, 8 Marquis, 8 Canadice, and 8 Lakemont vines coming to us this March. Martie has had good luck with his vines ordered from Double A Vineyards so we decided to get our grapes from them as well.
Now we are working on clearing a spot for the vineyard behind our house at the top of the hill. The process of logging our property in 2012 made a mess up there, so we need to clean up the branches then get to work installing our fencing system for the vines to be ready for planting this spring.
I am so excited to be moving forward with our goal of having a small vineyard and glad that we decided to get several different varieties of grapes. The Chambourcin grapes are good for making wine, and the others are perfect for eating off the vines or making jams and jellies. Lakemont grapes even make excellent raisins! I can't wait to have loads of grapes to work with.
Many thanks to Martie for sharing his knowledge with us and answering all of our questions. If you are ever in Southeast Missouri, please do stop by Indian Hills Winery. You will enjoy your visit!