Thursday, October 14, 2010

Planting Grape Vines in Spring or Fall

All of our vines we have started from cuttings. They are usually 2 or 3 bud cuttings about 8" to 14" long. We have had great success with propagating the vines this way in the spring. We've even started vines with 1 bud cutting no more than 1.5"-2" long with some success. However, once the vines are growing well and the roots are taking hold in the 4" x 4" propagation pots, the next step is to decide when to plant the vines into the ground.

We've planted our grape vines in the spring and in the fall. Those we have planted in the spring are transplanted from the propagation pots to the vineyard when the soil and air temperature are warm and frost danger has passed. We do this usually in June. These vines have to be nurtured and you have to ensure they are kept watered, weed free, pest and animal free and to add nutrients as they need them. By the end of the season they usually have grown several feet if not 5 or 6 feet high. Many have reached the fruit wire height of 5 feet by the end of the season. However, we often get enough cane die-back in these first year vines to knock them back to the ground or within a foot of it. The following year they send out new shoots from the base or from buds that survived near the base and these will make cordon height by mid summer.

We've also planted vines in the fall, usually mid to late September when the vines would be headed towards dormancy. In this case we transfer the vines from the propagation pots to larger 1 gallon pots in the spring. We grow them in the 1 gallon pot all summer and this way we can control the growth a little better as we know exactly how much water they are getting, we can easily keep all weeds and pests away, and we can control the nutrients as we know exactly how much is reaching the roots. In the fall we plant the vines out in the vineyard and they will have a huge root ball by then that is too tight from being confined to the 1 gallon pot. So as we plant it in the hole we stretch out the root ball a bit. In the spring we find that the canes die back to the ground or close to the ground. However, because of the massive root ball the vine has, we have seen that these vines usually have excellent growth in the spring on the one main shoot (trunk) that we allow to grow.

Perhaps the greatest reason for us to plant in the fall is that there is a cost saving on the irrigation equipment if we do a fall planting and a uniformity in growth of the vines the following year. Right now in the experimental vineyard we have a drip style irrigation system that works ok but some plants receive more water than others. With growing the vines in the pots all summer they can be watered with a garden hose very quickly when it is needed, they all get the same amount of water, and there is virtually no cost to this. Those that are planted in the spring and irrigated have variations in their vigor and growth rate due to differences in nutrients and water they are getting. (better irrigation equipment and nutrient/soil management would help this).

We have not needed to irrigate our second year vines as they establish a large enough root system in the first year to support a single primary shoot in the second year. We also seem to get enough rain at our site to supply their needs over the summer. I believe this summer from May 1st to September 30th we have received about 10-12 inches, about the same as in 2009, maybe a bit less. Therefore, we've found that if you grow the vines in pots all summer then transfer them to the vineyard in the fall, we have not needed to irrigate those vines at all and we get better, more uniform and more vigorous growth the following spring.

The first vines we planted were Leon Millot in the fall of 2008 after growing them in pots all summer. We have not had to irrigate them to date and they are healthy and vigorous.

This last method (fall planting from large pots) is mentioned in the Organic Grape Grower, (see the links list on the blog), and this is where we got the idea to try it for our site. After three years of experimenting we're starting to see what works, what works well, and what doesn't. Planting 1 year old vines in the fall at our site works well.

see our most recent blog on this topic here

Friday, October 1, 2010

L'Acadie Blanc grape and wine

This is truely an amazing grape. It was created in Canada in 1953 by O. Bradt at the horticultural research station at Vineland Ontario. In the early days it was only known as V53261 and was the result of a cross of Cascade (Seibel 13053) and Seyve-villard 14-287 (This same cross resulted in a sister seedling known as Veeblanc or V53263).

The vine was relatively successful in the trials in Ontario with the resulting wine quality being good to very good. However, in those days productivity was a critical factor and while V53261 was a good producer it did not measure up to what was being sought at that time.

The vine also showed excellent cold hardy properties (-31c), disease resistance and early maturity, requiring about 950 degree days of heat and 135-140 frost free days. With these marginal grape growing parameter, the vine was sent to the Kentville, Nova Scotia Agriculture Canada testing station for further evaluation.
Photo Reference Link

In testing in Kentville the V53261 was found to preform well after winters with -30c conditions doing significantly better than Seyval Blanc in side by side comparisons. The vine was also found to produce quality fruit with lower acidity and better chemistry balance than Seyval in summers with fewer than 900 degree days of heat. Over 18 years of testing this variety as averaged 18.5 brix with TA of 10.5 g/L, with average degree days of 982 c. The vine was found to suit the growing conditions of Nova Scotia quite well and was so names L'Acadie Blanc.

While the short growing season, good productivity, disease resistance, and cold hardiness are good reasons to try this vine. the most compelling reason is the amazing wine that this variety makes (See this link for more detail). It is virtually unknown outside of Nova Scotia but those who have tried it including yours truly can say that this grape makes an exception wine in the hands of a good winemaker.

I've tried several, Jost Vineyard makes a beauty with some residual sugar, somewhat reminiscent of chablis. Domaine de Grande Pre makes an excellent dry L'Acadie. Gaspereau Vineyards also makes a dry L'Acadie and like the other two noted it is very good as well. Other Nova Scotia wineries like L'Acadie Vineyard and Benjamin Bridge are now winning awards for crafting this grape as a sparkling wine.

This is truly a versatile, and an excellent grape vine and it is a shame that it is not offered in the liquor stores in the prairie provinces. I brought a few bottles of the Jost L'Acadie back with me from Nova Scotia on my last trip. We served it at a group wine tasting and in side by side comparisons against a nice BC Chardonnay and a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, the L'Acadie won hands down, was everyone's favorite.

We planted a few L'Acadie Blanc vines in the test vineyard to see how they work out in our climate and conditions. We really like this one and are hoping it grows well.