Jump to content


Photo
- - - - -

My grape-growing thread


  • Please log in to reply
17 replies to this topic

#1 HokieTrismegistus

HokieTrismegistus

    Not HokieBrewer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 10,622 posts
  • LocationVirginia Beach

Posted 15 April 2014 - 01:14 PM

So this year, I decided I'm going to try to grow grapes for possible booze making.  Obviously the biggest factor in winemaking is terroir.  Virginia's history of winemaking was all failures until the 70's.  Prior to that, Phylloxera crushed any attempts to grow Vinifera here.

 

The odds are stacked against me here:

-Drainage isn't ideal.

-VA humidity is a real bastard and can cause rot.

 

With that in mind, I figured I'd try three varieties: Regent, Vidal Blanc, and Cowart, a muscadine.

 

Regent is a German hybrid grape (Vinifera crossed with American species for better disease resistance).  They crossed Chambourcin with another grape.  It's getting popular in Germany, acts more like Vinifera than American grapes and has a tendency to develop high sugar contents and high tannins (the kind of reds I prefer are big bold heavy full bodied ones [Zin, Cab, Petite Verdot]).  I think it might be growable as it has extremely good resistance, requiring minimal spraying, stands cold weather well.  Generally it's been grown in cooler climates, I'm crossing my fingers it can do something good here in the dirty south.

 

Vidal blanc.  It's another hybrid variety and a white grape that everyone seems to grow everywhere.  Seems like it's been grown in Missouri to Canada where it makes ice wines with lots of citrus and pineapple.  If I could approximate something like a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (which probably won't happen what with our hot temps... the finer acid notes will likely be 'cooked' out by the afternoon sun) or a Riesling, I'd be overjoyed.  I tried a Horton Vineyards Vidal blanc and the acidity took me aback at first but then became enjoyable.

 

Cowart Muscadine grapes.  Muscadines are native here in the south, so you have to figure if it survived so well without any human intervention for this long, maybe there'll be something good to happen with a carefully bred cultivar.  I'm sort of thinking of this muscadine as my abused child who would normally live under the stairs and will have to learn to fend for itself.  If it dies, I'm not going to be soul-crushed, if it just becomes a weed and I get a few snacking grapes out of it, that'd be fun too.  In my research into muscadines, I was actually more excited about varieties like Noble and Black Beauty, but shipping one dormant vine would have cost me $30 whereas I saw this Cowart vine at a garden center, already one or two seasons old for $25. 

 

They've all been planted along a fence that receives several hours of afternoon sun during the day.  The buds have broken on the Regent vine which seems like it's just ready and raring to take off and grow like a bastard... one day you see tiny buds, the next there's tiny leaves.  The Cowart seems to be coming out of dormancy a bit more slowly but surely, now with a dozen small leaves that need to be trimmed so I can begin to develop it along a trellis.  The Vidal Blanc is just sitting there, no buds breaking, just looking like a really sad expensive twig in my backyard.

 

More to come, hopefully.


  • 0

#2 armagh

armagh

    Grumpy Frost Giant

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 9,221 posts
  • LocationBandit Country

Posted 15 April 2014 - 02:01 PM

http://winemaking.jackkeller.net/

 

Has some recipes for muscadine wine.  Be forewarned, it is not an overly wine-friendly grape.


  • 0

#3 HokieTrismegistus

HokieTrismegistus

    Not HokieBrewer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 10,622 posts
  • LocationVirginia Beach

Posted 05 May 2014 - 07:05 AM

The Regent is waking up and looking healthy. The muscadine is looking like it's always been there. Great vigor. The vidal blanc is looking DOA.
  • 0

#4 HokieTrismegistus

HokieTrismegistus

    Not HokieBrewer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 10,622 posts
  • LocationVirginia Beach

Posted 08 January 2015 - 07:19 AM

So this is the first winter my vines are going through. The regent should be fine as I've read its good down to -25. My muscadines, I'm actually a tiny bit worried... but if it doesn't... oh well.Also, going to plant some Norton and see what I can do.
  • 0

#5 HokieTrismegistus

HokieTrismegistus

    Not HokieBrewer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 10,622 posts
  • LocationVirginia Beach

Posted 08 January 2015 - 07:29 AM

Of the Nortons I've tried, which is like... 2, it seems like it can go two ways.One way is like a light bodied pinot noir like wine where the grape seems to express a lot of cranberry flavor, the other one I tried had some petit verdot and tannat added to it to give it a touch more body and tannin but overall seemed like a big jammy old vine zinfandel with really interesting earthiness.
  • 0

#6 HokieTrismegistus

HokieTrismegistus

    Not HokieBrewer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 10,622 posts
  • LocationVirginia Beach

Posted 21 July 2015 - 09:21 AM

This year has had ups and downs.  The Regent vine did well in terms of vegetative growth and it actually made some fruit!  This being the second year I was more concerned with the actual growth and health of the plant more than I was about the possibility of getting fruit from it.  Stil, it was a nice preview.  I also learned that using grapes with so much vinifera genes, I really had to spray.  Sevin to keep the Japanese beetles in check, and sulfur to stop a bit of mildew popping up.  The fungal stuff didn't effect leaves at all whatsoever, but it definitely knocked several grapes out of the race.  I actually got my grapes to fully ripen... and then the birds got to them before I could.  I was actually looking at them yesterday thinking "man, I should get those grapes off soon."  This morning, I saw them decimating the vines.  All I had left after was a few empty skins.

 

What cracks me up so much is how low maintenance the muscadines are.  I don't spray them with anything.  Beetles aren't interested, aphids aren't.  They're from the south so they don't mind humidity at all.

 

My vidal blanc was completely dead when I received it last year, so the company sent me a fresh one this year.  It's alive and well, but super slow vigor.  It's just slowly chugging along.


  • 0

#7 HokieTrismegistus

HokieTrismegistus

    Not HokieBrewer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 10,622 posts
  • LocationVirginia Beach

Posted 18 April 2016 - 09:44 PM

This year my Regent vine is going nuts, lots and lots of vigor. My vidal blanc survived last year, despite appearing to only be a stick. Muscadines are alive and well and actually got a severe pruning this year.
  • 0

#8 Evil_Morty

Evil_Morty

    Comptroller of <non-pr0n> pr0n

  • Patron
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 34,827 posts
  • LocationLimbo

Posted 25 April 2016 - 01:42 PM

so have you made any wine?


  • 0

#9 HokieTrismegistus

HokieTrismegistus

    Not HokieBrewer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 10,622 posts
  • LocationVirginia Beach

Posted 14 July 2016 - 07:20 PM

I'm finally at a point where I'm going to make my first harvest. Got bird nets up this time and the grapes are doing much better.

My Regent grapes are doing really well and I'm going to attempt to make a wine this year. The hard part is trying to figure out how long to leave them there to achieve full ripeness. The ones I've tasted have had light sweetness (less than I want), but the tannins have been very firm in th skin with what seems like a lot of color. Technically I should have just bought a refractometer already... but that's a purchase for next year.

At the same time this was a weird rainy year and I didn't fertilize the grapes this spring at all thinking that it would exacerbate the vigor of the vine.
  • 0

#10 HokieTrismegistus

HokieTrismegistus

    Not HokieBrewer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 10,622 posts
  • LocationVirginia Beach

Posted 14 July 2016 - 07:20 PM

I'm finally at a point where I'm going to make my first harvest. Got bird nets up this time and the grapes are doing much better.

My Regent grapes are doing really well and I'm going to attempt to make a wine this year. The hard part is trying to figure out how long to leave them there to achieve full ripeness. The ones I've tasted have had light sweetness (less than I want), but the tannins have been very firm in th skin with what seems like a lot of color. Technically I should have just bought a refractometer already... but that's a purchase for next year.

At the same time this was a weird rainy year and I didn't fertilize the grapes this spring at all thinking that it would exacerbate the vigor of the vine.
  • 0

#11 HokieTrismegistus

HokieTrismegistus

    Not HokieBrewer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 10,622 posts
  • LocationVirginia Beach

Posted 14 July 2016 - 07:30 PM

My plan for this attempt at wine:

Wait for optomal ripeness and pick that morning. Quick rinse to get rid of any sulfur or pesticides.

Sanitize my fermenting bucket and a cheesecloth bag.

Pick off individual grapes and throw them into the cheesecloth bag lining the bucket.

Once I have gotten all grapes into the cheesecloth bag, crush up the grapes with a potato masher. Once I think I've gotten them crushed enough I add a Camden tablet (or whatever dosage I find sufficient) to the juice.

24 hours later, hydrate yeast and mix in to the juice. Push my cheesecloth bag back down a few times in the morning and when I come home at night.

Plan is to macerate for 10 days to extract a lot of tannin (I love bold dry reds with a long finish).

After ten days, transfer to a secondary and maybe Camden it again so that it doesn't oxidize.

Then, maybe a tertiary.

I'm not going to add a malolactic culture this time to see what happens.
  • 0

#12 AUGIE1991

AUGIE1991

    Rocket

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 16,996 posts
  • LocationIowa

Posted 14 July 2016 - 07:49 PM

Very interesting to read!  You should post some pics of all this to document and educate!!!


  • 0

#13 miccullen

miccullen

    Cheap Blue Meanie

  • Patron
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 74,800 posts
  • LocationSpokane, WA

Posted 14 July 2016 - 07:57 PM

Cool man, I dream of growing my own someday too.

I've made grape wines a time or 3. How many pounds are you harvesting?

Edited by miccullen, 14 July 2016 - 08:07 PM.

  • 0

#14 HokieTrismegistus

HokieTrismegistus

    Not HokieBrewer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 10,622 posts
  • LocationVirginia Beach

Posted 14 July 2016 - 08:00 PM

Cool man, I dream of growing my own someday too.

I've made grape wines a time or 3. Hobmany pounds are you harvesting?


No idea. Young vine. Small bunches.
  • 0

#15 HokieTrismegistus

HokieTrismegistus

    Not HokieBrewer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 10,622 posts
  • LocationVirginia Beach

Posted 25 July 2016 - 09:15 AM

Harvested grapes at about 8am.  The hope was to have them even out over night from yesterday's hot day but not let them get too hot today.

 

The grapes were soft and ripe feeling and I got what felt like a couple of pounds worth.  I plucked each grape off, inspected it, avoiding overripe grapes and/or botrytis, which takes about 45 minutes.  Each grape was placed in a sanitized cheesecloth bag.  After that, I went to crush the grapes with a potato masher and realized how inefficient it is.  So I put my foot in a ziplock bag and stomped em and released much more juice.  Then I mashed it just a tiny bit more with my sanitized potato masher.

 

I didn't get a gravity reading because I didn't have a ton of juice to waste on checking sugar levels, and I'm going to buy a refractometer NEXT year. 

 

Right now it's got sulfites in it to kill off wild yeasts.  Dosing was tricky as I read a tablet per gallon and I ended up with maybe 750ml of juice... so I did a mashed up fraction of a tablet and hope I got it right.  Tomorrow I'm pitching both pasteur red and montrachet from Red Star.

 

Pics of above available here: https://www.instagram.com/brenkennedy/


  • 0

#16 miccullen

miccullen

    Cheap Blue Meanie

  • Patron
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 74,800 posts
  • LocationSpokane, WA

Posted 27 July 2016 - 06:43 PM

cool man!


  • 0

#17 HokieTrismegistus

HokieTrismegistus

    Not HokieBrewer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 10,622 posts
  • LocationVirginia Beach

Posted 04 August 2016 - 04:57 AM

I'm transferring to secondary right now. I wanted to see if I'd made wine or moldy vinegar and so when I opened the lid of my bucket I was very happy to see what looked like very vivid red wine. I wanted to see what it would smell like and forgot my fermenting bucket was full of CO2.

I went ahead and just funneled it in, meaning I'm probably going to get a bit of sediment to this go round,but I mainly mean to get it off the skins.

I was eager to have a taste so I tried a drop at the bottom. Right now it tastes like yeast, co2 and tannin.
  • 0

#18 AUGIE1991

AUGIE1991

    Rocket

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 16,996 posts
  • LocationIowa

Posted 06 August 2016 - 10:20 AM

Grapes look really nice!
  • 0


0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users