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After touring some vineyards and talking to a buddy that works at a vineyard he convinced me to start a vineyard on my land. So I went out and ordered 17 Zinfandel vines and planted them as a "tester" to see how well they preform in West Texas. If they do well I have a half acre and my father has a acre right behind me that we are going to turn into a vineyard.

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The trellis system is my project for this weekend.
 

Yooper

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That's great! I only know a little about growing grapes in Texas, and I've been told that there were only a couple of varieties that grew decently. One is a Spanish red grape, although the name escapes me, and one is a white grape variety (I think from Florida) called bois blanc. I've seen these in the area near Goliad, so quite distant from you.

I know that there are some vineyards growing near Austin, and in the Hill Country, but I know very little about it and so I'm interested to see how you do!
 

hunter_le five

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Tons of vineyards near where I live (Hill Country). Not sure what varietals they're all growing off the top of my head, but I know it's more than just a couple.

According to Wikipedia:
Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay have the highest number of plantings in the state, followed by Merlot, Syrah, and Muscat Canelli as leading variety in acreage planted. Texas is also home to Zinfandel, Tempranillo, Sangiovese, and Viognier plantings.[7] The Texas Department of Agriculture lists twenty-one wine varieties grown in Texas.[10] From 2005 to 2010, large increases in plantings have been seen for varietals like Syrah and Muscat Canelli, while others like Sauvignon blanc and Chardonnay have declined.[11]
Of course, "growing" does not necessarily mean "growing well". But you're certainly not the only person to grow Zin in Texas.
 
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There are quite a few vineyards around the Lubbock area. There is a small 1 acre one growing Spanish Red about 20miles from me (in Midland). I bought Zin just due to the fact that I was a little late to the planting game this year. I've read up on them and I think they will do well in my climate and soil.
 

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I have about 300 vines at my place, cab sav, shiraz and sav blanc. It's a great hobby, will give you endless fun. 17 vines isn't many, they are easy to take cuttings but you may need rootstocks for phylloxera in your area. Plastic vine guards are good to protect against pests such as rabbits and also to make herbicide sprays easier.
A spray with wettable sulfur just before budburst and phosphorus acid in summer for downy mildew will keep them healthy.
 

madscientist451

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I would suggest getting several more varieties/rootstock combinations for your test planting. Often grape vines are grafted on to a rootstock that helps the variety adapt to different growing conditions and it takes a few years to determine what works best for your site.
Its also good to have several varieties for blending.
Deer can be a problem, they tore up my test planting before I got a fence.
Good Luck!
 
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Thanks for all the insight. My plan is to have 2-3 varieties, I was just a little late to the buying game this year. I'm researching what varieties to buy and will pre-order them this time.

My grow shields just came in yesterday, so thats my project this weekend. Luckily (for planting reasons) I don't have deer, just rabbits.
 

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The thing to keep in mind is that your main aim is always to get the grapes as ripe as possible. This isn't as easy as it may seem, grapevines are subject to many pests and diseases, it is different in each area. It is important to keep your foliage as healthy as possible, so get to know the sprays for things like powdery and downy mildew, downy is the biggest problem. Always keep the weeds down through the growing season. It is easier to ripen a small crop than a big one, you should plant your vines much closer than that, though with only 17 vines it's understandable you wanted to cover some area. About 3 feet apart is a good distance, possibly a bit wider. I asked the viticulturist at the vineyard where I used to work what he would change about the vineyard if he could, he said he would plant the vines closer (they were about 8 ft apart). It is easier to grow good grapes if the vines are smaller, though it is possible at wider spacings.

When the vines are mature and vigorous you have to keep the crop level down, don't leave too many buds at pruning and don't overwater through summer. With reds the skin to juice ratio is very important, if you can keep the berries small you get much better wine, and they ripen much easier. be sure to get a refractometer and test the sugar often through the ripening period. You need a sample of at least 20 berries from different bunches at random to get a good sample.

That is just a few of the things I have learnt over the years. You will make lots of mistakes but as long as you learn from them you will always improve. Never just blame problems on bad luck, there is always something you could have done better to make things work. Basically any problems are your fault, just accept that and move on.

Also think about bird netting, with a small vineyard it doesn't take many birds to finish your crop.

You are lucky to be able to buy small quantities of vines, in Australia anything less than a thousand vines and the suppliers aren't interested.
 
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The thing to keep in mind is that your main aim is always to get the grapes as ripe as possible. This isn't as easy as it may seem, grapevines are subject to many pests and diseases, it is different in each area. It is important to keep your foliage as healthy as possible, so get to know the sprays for things like powdery and downy mildew, downy is the biggest problem. Always keep the weeds down through the growing season. It is easier to ripen a small crop than a big one, you should plant your vines much closer than that, though with only 17 vines it's understandable you wanted to cover some area. About 3 feet apart is a good distance, possibly a bit wider. I asked the viticulturist at the vineyard where I used to work what he would change about the vineyard if he could, he said he would plant the vines closer (they were about 8 ft apart). It is easier to grow good grapes if the vines are smaller, though it is possible at wider spacings.

When the vines are mature and vigorous you have to keep the crop level down, don't leave too many buds at pruning and don't overwater through summer. With reds the skin to juice ratio is very important, if you can keep the berries small you get much better wine, and they ripen much easier. be sure to get a refractometer and test the sugar often through the ripening period. You need a sample of at least 20 berries from different bunches at random to get a good sample.

That is just a few of the things I have learnt over the years. You will make lots of mistakes but as long as you learn from them you will always improve. Never just blame problems on bad luck, there is always something you could have done better to make things work. Basically any problems are your fault, just accept that and move on.

Also think about bird netting, with a small vineyard it doesn't take many birds to finish your crop.

You are lucky to be able to buy small quantities of vines, in Australia anything less than a thousand vines and the suppliers aren't interested.

Great info. I planted them 6ft apart.


Went out to test fit the grow shield and on several vines it crowded the foliage quite a bit. Is this okay? This is what I bought http://www.plantra.com/GrowTubesForVines.aspx
 

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It is no problem if they are a bit crowded in the tube, they will soon grow out the top. A lot of vineyards will plant 6ft apart mainly to save money. When you plant your bigger vineyard next year I would advise to plant them closer.
 

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Lookin good! One thing I would suggest for the future (since I would guess you'll have more than 17 vines a row in the future) is to set your 4" pipe end posts at a 45degree angle at least 3 feet into the ground, concreted in is even better, and preferably with an anchor too. Once your vines start carrying a crop the cordon line can get a LOT of weight on it, coupled with the stress of high-tensile wire. Only reason it stands out is at my work, two fields are trellised with perpendicular end posts and they're showing signs of going south year after year. Other than that, awesome job!
 
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Yeah after putting tension on the wire being set in cement 3ft they still bowed in a little. Defiantly doing the trellis differently next go round.

When I get back from vacation I'm gonna set another post about 6ft out set in cement, then weld a pipe between the two at a 45deg angle.

Thinking about redoing the wires as it is right now they are just single runs. After more research the wires should be doubled to create a "channel". Which will make it easier to train the vines.
 

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There are lots of options with trellis wires. It depends a lot how vigorous your vines grow. Vines can be very vigorous with good conditions, too vigorous is bad, it isn't usually a problem for a small scale vineyard. If your vines get vigorous there will be lots of big heavy canes growing from the spurs, these tend to pull the vine over, making it roll over and expose the fruit to too much sun. A couple of extra wires 18in - 2ft above the main wire allow you to keep the most vigorous canes upright, you stop rolling and also get more light on the fruit. It is common to have wires that can be dropped down at pruning, then raised up in summer and cllipped in place so the foliage gets raised up. The wider you space the vines the more vigorous they have to be to fill the space, so you probably need foliage wires. Close spaced vines are often grown on a single wire trellis but only if the site isn't windy.
Too much vigour means too much foliage and the bunches don't see enough light to ripen well. A lot of vineyards these days do leaf plucking in summer to get light inside the canopy.
 

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Cordon wire should be a single wire, fruiting wires and canopy wires should be double, give you something to put the canopy up in when they form, keeps air moving through the vines and looks super nice & tidy. I'm not knocking the job (god knows I wish I had land to do this) but it is a concern for the future when it comes to bearing a crop. Consider if you had clusters that were 3lb a piece. 3lb per cluster, 2 clusters per shoot, two shoots per node, ten nodes per vine, 17 vines per row. That's a little over a ton of wieght per row, that is assuming a reasonable cluster weight and proper thinning techniques etc. You can see where it would warp :)
 

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If you are averaging 3lb per bunch that is far too big for good winegrapes. Winegrapes should be less than 1lb on average. Big fat bunches mean not much skin, and the skin is where the flavour is for red wine. It is really important to keep your skin to juice ratio high if you want to make good wine.
 
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Update: 2 of the vines never rooted, 3 put out a new shoots from the roots. They range from a few inches above the grow tubes to a foot or so out of the grow tubes. I've started training the longer vines to grow on the cordon wire. With the heat wave we are having (100+ deg days for 4 weeks straight so far) the vines aren't really growing much.
 

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It's a sad fact that if you are buying small quantities of vines you will just get leftovers that have been sitting around in a coldstore for ages. Often they will take a couple of seasons to get going. vines are usually sold by the thousand.
If your climate is that hot you will need to ensure there is plenty of foliage to protect the bunches from the sun. Bunches especially red bunches will tend to cook on the vine in really hot weather after veraison, it spoils the flavour somewhat, makes it a bit jammy or porty.
 
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Update: All but the two that never rooted did very well from a few inches above the grow tubes (the ones that came out from the roots), to a foot or so of growth down the cordon wire. Hopefully I will see some massive growth the next growing season, and maybe a few grapes to taste.

After making apple cider from 50lbs of Apples this year, I realized its going to take a whole lotta grapes to make 5 gal of wine.
 

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It'll take just over 100 lbs of grapes to get a 5 gallon batch, but look at it this way, you'll be making wine that you can truly say is yours, from vine to wine! Keep us updated!
 

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I got 9 gallons from 150 lbs of syrah grapes grown in sonoma county. That's about 85 lbs per 5 gallons depending on variety, growing season, fruit set, stems, and seeds.
 

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It depends on whether you use a press or just take the free-run. I find it easier to measure in kg and litres, with a press you should be able to get at least 7.5L from 10kg of fermented-on-skins grapes, its easier to get a good yield with reds than whites because it is easier to press after fermenting. If you don't have a press you will only get 4-5L from 10kg.
You get a smaller yield from smaller grapes because there is more skins, but the quality will usually be better.
 

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Hey gang,

I don't want to divert the conversation but this thread got me wondering about yield and all that. A google search turned up info that suggests approx. 1,500 bottles of wine from an acre of vines.

Does that match the experience of those of you who grow your own? It seems like a LOT of wine from a small space.
 

gregbathurst

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Roughly speaking a kg of grapes gives you a bottle of wine, so a tonne of grapes will give you 1000 bottles. A high quality vineyard will produce 1-2 tonnes per acre so your figure would be about right. However...

Many commercial vineyards producing wine in the $5-15 range will get 5 tonnes per acre or more which means 5000 bottles per acre, some vineyards are 500 acres so you can do the math.
 

wyowolf

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How many vines would one need to make wine at home? I have around 2 acres and could probably plant 10 or so vines but not sure how many bottles that translates to. Obviously this is one of those things to do just because Im bored... lol. But have always wanted to try it.

I live near Atlanta, I know they have wine in N Ga so I assuming they could grow here.
 

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for viniferia it ranges from 2 metric tonnes per acre to sometimes as much as 5 tonnes per acre (wine spacing of roughly 3ft between vines and between 6-8ft wide rows, there is some further information i can give about this) and you can expect 700L per tonne once pressed (that is a hard press) and don't expect good grapes in the second year of a vine.. they often take 3-4 years to get any good grapes since the first 2 years you want to focus on root growth and trunk establishment.
 

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It depends a lot how interested and committed you are. If you really want to make good wine I would recommend at least 50 vines, preferably 100, but if you have a lower level of interest 20 - 30 vines would be ok. Close planting is better for home vineyards, the vines are easier to manage.
 

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Don't expect grapes for 4-5 years that are at all fit for winemaking, and I would recommend that any fruit you do see forming in the years prior should be dropped to allow the wood to develop. This is a point of debate with different people, some say let the fruit hang, some say cut it off, I think it might be varietally dependent as this is a technique for some table grapes as well such as canadice. However, I can still hear my instructors voice echoing in my head "Drop all fruit for the first 4 years while establishing cordons".
 
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Year 2 growth is going fast. Walking the vines every few days and dropping the fruit bunches. Some are growing faster than others.

Ordered more vines and the nursery is sending me replacements on the 3 that didn't make it.

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gregbathurst

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Are you planning to cane prune or spur prune? If you are doing spurs you will be starting to form the main arms of the vines, or you could cut the vines back to the main stems and form arms from the more vigorous growth next year. I you decide on cane pruning you have to grow new canes every year.It's harder to be that consistent so I prefer spur pruning,it is more forgiving.The danger with spur pruning is that it is tempting to leave too many buds and overcrop the vines, but you won't have problems with large crops in the first few years.
 
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Are you planning to cane prune or spur prune? If you are doing spurs you will be starting to form the main arms of the vines, or you could cut the vines back to the main stems and form arms from the more vigorous growth next year. I you decide on cane pruning you have to grow new canes every year.It's harder to be that consistent so I prefer spur pruning,it is more forgiving.The danger with spur pruning is that it is tempting to leave too many buds and overcrop the vines, but you won't have problems with large crops in the first few years.

Probably going to to spur prune.

Still trying to get the wood built up and cordons formed. Hoping for some good growth this year.


Do I need to be trimming off growth that isn't on the cordon, on the bigger plants? There seems to be some pretty good growth coming out of the grow tubes thats not cordon growth.
 

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Don't trim any growth now,it is all helping the plants to get established. For small vineyards it is better to do pruning just before budburst next spring. The canes hold reserves of starch which help the plant through winter. Big vineyards prune right through winter because there is so much to get through, but you are better to leave it to the last minute.
 
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