Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Vineyard Site Selection

If you’re like me, interested in wine, then the thought of having your own vineyard and/or winery must have crossed your mind. For some, a backyard vineyard is the way to go. Others plan bigger, from several acres to huge spreads that go beyond the hobby size. Vineyard site selection, for a potential winery, can be a difficult thing to do on your own, but it’s also expensive to hire a consultant to get professional help.

To decide on a site, first you must decide what type of wine you want to sell. Not just the type of wine, but your plans for selling the wine. If it’s from your own tasting room, you might need to consider location and traffic, whether there are other wineries around, and if there are local restaurants that might carry your wares. If you're not on a n established wine trail, where will your customers come from? How far is the nearest metropolitan area.

The site itself can be shaped but, if you want to have less impact on the environment, will be minimally changed. Things that can’t be changed: climate, temperature, rainfall, availability of water. Things that can be changed are topography, drainage, and irrigation. If you are like me, the goal is dry farming, though I realize some irrigation might be necessary to help the vines get established. A pond or lake on the property can help in those initial years and also add to the scenery later.

Besides the location and appropriate soil for growing grapes, you need to consider services for the nascent winery: water and sewer, electricity, road access, and so on. Does the property have an existing structure or will you have to build. Will the wine process be gravity fed or more traditional?

Improving your site includes opting for correct grapes, be they vinifera or hybrid, or maybe native grapes or other fruit. The site itself can be improved through the drainage, environmental practices to amend the soil, cover crops, and so on. Trellising for the location will improve the crop and subsequently, the wine. All these choices happen years and many dollars before any wine is made, so it's a big investment in time and money - the early research is therefore invaluable.

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