Sunday, August 3, 2008

Viticulture Field Day

This past week, we dipped a few more toes into the frigid waters of our plans to start a vineyard and winery business.

I've been making homemade wine for several years, and we have a small test plot of about 90 grapevines that we are currently training onto trellises.

We attended a viticultural field day hosted by the MU Institute for Continental Climate Viticulture and Enology (ICCVE). It was a big vineyard geekfest attended by around 150 like-minded folks. We learned about trellis design, canopy management, grape varieties in Missouri, and grow tubes. It was also an opportunity to meet people at all stages of the vineyard business. From those that managed full-time vineyards to people like us that were just getting started with a few vines and had a lot to learn.

The morning session was hosted by Fahrmeier Farms near Lexington, MO.

This is one busy family farm here in Missouri. In addition to their newly established vineyards, they also maintain greenhouses, vegetable production, a variety of livestock including cattle, goats and hogs, and a winery is also in the works. Anytime you feel like your schedule is full, just think about how many projects these guys are juggling. Contact info: 9374 Mitchell Trail - - 816-289-2496. Visit their Tomato Days blog at:

After a delicious lunch featuring pasta and salad with locally grown tomatoes, and fresh raspberries and ice cream for dessert, we went to the vineyards of Baltimore Bend Vineyard near Waverly, MO.

Each session was hosted by university professors who were specialists in a given field of viticulture. They took us out into the vineyards for hands-on demonstrations of each of the topics. It's one thing to read about trellis design, but to see the different options in person and see how they need to be built really helps understand the importance of this part of the vineyard.

The question and answer sessions that followed each presentation were really helpful also. We strayed off topic, and got some good hints about disease and pest control, and organic growing options.

We finished the day with a wine tasting at Baltimore Bend. Their first vines went into the ground in 1997. They are making some really great wines! They feature several oak barrel aged wines using Cynthiana, Chambourcin, and Chardonel grapes that are well suited for aging in the cellar and several blends of red and white grapes. We picked up two bottles and shared them with family and friends this weekend (unopened wine does not last long in this house).

After a day in the hot vineyard, the tasting session lasted for quite some time. Big surprise ... vineyard growers like to drink wine! We talked with several people at the same stage as ourselves, and we met the MU extension contact for our county. He has started having small informal meetings of people in our area who are in the process of starting or expanding their vineyards.

We heard a good vineyard joke that kind of sums up the decision we are working towards. How do you make a small fortune in the vineyard business? Start with a large fortune and start a vineyard.

This field day was another step on the long road to starting a vineyard of our own. It will be hard work, cost a lot of money, it will take many years before it is established, and many more years before we can even think about any black ink on the ledger sheet. But it is a very rewarding project that we love doing and with all the negatives, the positives make it a goal we continue to pursue.

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