Exploring VA Wines in June
First of all for those interested, a brief vineyard update: Most of the colder sites in the state have suffered damage from the cold winter. This was also varietal specific, meaning Merlot, Tannat and Sangiovese for us had a lot of winter kill. The circulatory system for some of the vines is healing and the buds that have pushed will soon receive the nutrients needed to grow and rebuild the vine. Some of the vines are showing no sign of life and will need to be replaced. Others are relatively healthy and even though they will produce little fruit this year, they should be fine for next year as long as there are no polar vortex issues again.I will be transplanting dead vines with heartier varieties which meant that we will have less Tannat, Merlot and Sangiovese available from our estate in the future.
As we in the industry work our way through another challenging year of grape growing, we see our recognition as a major wine region continue to grow. The. Virginia wine board is putting together a plan to get more folks into the challenging world of Virginia grape growing in order to fill the void of grapes we have now and will have in the future. The most important part of this is identifying the best land to grow grapes on. Elevations between 500 and 1500 feet with sloping land shaped like an elephants back or a gumdrop is the best. This keeps the cold air from pooling up where the vines are planted and causing many of the challenges that we face.
Depending on who owns the land will depend on where this effort goes next. The best case would be that they are already a farmer and are looking to plant a new crop. A farmer would understand the work, business and lifestyle needed to be successful. The next best scenario would be a person who likes the idea of owning a vineyard, but is smart enough to know that this is not what they want to do. They pay for the installation and management but will not try to learn all of the intricacies to make it successful. Another arrangement may be one where a winery needing land and grapes will work with the landowner to work together to invest, install and manage the vineyard. They would have an arrangement to share the profits accordingly.
Now that we are talking about business relationships, it is time to bring in the lawyer. We may need a land lease relationship. We may have the winery investing money to plant the vineyard. The grower may be an independent contractor that the winery hires to manage the vines. Business plans and contracts are another key ingredient to getting more grapes in the Virginia soil. We need to be able to sell the business plans to a bank to get the capital necessary. None of this is easy but it is all essential if we choose to continue growing this industry.
If anyone has land they think may have any agriculture potential, talk with your local agricultural extension agent. They are in touch with the best tools for evaluation. And then we go from there. Keep growing folks as the season is here!
Written by: Doug Fabbioli