Sunday, April 5, 2015

planting grapes: building the trellis and planting

When I was looking for information on building a vinyard I ran across a couple of differnet cost estimates for vinyards in California.   They quoted good vinyard land at $125,000/acre OR MORE (!!!) and the costs of establishing a vinyard at $30k/acre, with two more years at $3-5k/acre, for a total sunk cost of $40k per acre before you get y our first harvest.  

That seems pretty amazing.  No wonder wine sells for so much.  They've got huge capital costs!

Mine is a little cheaper; my total cost for this vinyard - prep, posts, wire, plastic, plants - would be around $2800 an acre.  So for my little quarter-acre vinyard I'm at roughly $700.  The land itself I purchased for $6k/acre -- so what folks down in california think is reasonably price at $160,000 costs me in washington roughly $10k on an acre-basis.   
 Good soil, no rocks.  Posts push right in.  Black plastic layed down to discourage in-row weeds.  I've planted a cover crop of grass and alfalfa between the rows to out-compete the weeds, and I'll watch to see how that goes.  If it doesn't work I'll just rototill the strips between the vines now and then.
All of the vines are planted; 25 each of the following varieties:  
Canadice - table, juice, wine, jelly
Einset Sedless - table
Monuka - Table, raisin
Suffolk red - table
all posts, plastic and vines in.  Just need trellis wires and row-end supports

7 comments:

curiousfarmer.com said...

Fun project! Keep us updated, please.

Steve said...

I work as an occasional grape pruner for a brother-in-law in Napa. Your numbers seem accurate, but in some cases the valley land costs more. Brother-in-law developed some higher elevation land to get soil that wasn't as good as other places. This stresses the grapes and make for more flavorful wine. But everything is farmed on a slope and in some cases by backpack. Red wine also has to sit in barrels for 3-5 years after picking to age before being released and having a chance to make money.

Bill Gauch said...

Your table grapes will likely perform quite well. With ample moisture, your biggest hazard will be the various molds and fungi. The other thing you should prepare for is dolmades... lots, and lots of dolmades. The moisture might produce a bland but adequate table wine. I've read that you can produce a reasonable equivalent to Bordeaux with a combination of concord and blackberry, although, every year I have good grapes, I have terrible blackberries and vice-versa. Good luck with the endeavor.

Bruce King said...

Thank you Curious, will do!

Steve: I was just amazed that people could pay hundreds of thousands of dollars an acre for agricultural land and still consider that a "bargain". The best farmland in iowa got to $10 to $12k/acre and people were talking about that being an unsustainable bubble level. I cannot imagine $300k/acre ever been supportable by any form of agriculture at all.

Bruce King said...

Bill: I'm not much of a wine guy - I use it when I cook, makes great sauces, but don't drink it myself. plus the market for wine grapes around here is saturated by eastern washington where conditions are perfect for the most popular varieties. Not sure I could make any money. but a small quantity (500-1000lbs) of table grapes in the late summer I can dispose of pretty easily is what I'm thinking.

I also had to figure what the likely pruning, maintenance and... I don't even know what a dolmades is. guess I'll have a learning curve on this one, like everything else!

Bruce King said...

dolmades! I've eaten them. I thought you were talking about some sort of evil pest, a nematode or something. Yes, dolmades! lots and lots of them.

I've got good blackberries around here. Blackberries are to the northwest what kudzu is to the south.

grasspunk said...

I'm guessing you won't be spraying your vines every two weeks like my neighbors (Armagnac, Côtes de Gascogne). And then they spend all winter out cleaning them up. But vine country here is cheap compared to your CA Prices and grapes are a profitable crop. I'm betting Bordeaux up the road has more expensive land.