Growing grapes can be a rewarding pursuit.
They're appealing to the eye, pleasing to the palate, a profitable sideline and a reason for parties and neighborhood togetherness. Small wonder so many vineyards are cropping up in people's yards.
"The idea of having a landscape that produces something is one of the attractive issues," said Tom Powers, a winemaker who has designed and installed more than 100 small vineyards, mainly around the Alhambra Valley of Contra Costa County, Calif., near where he lives. "The other thing is the lifestyle of being in wine country is attractive to people and they want to be a part of it."
Property owners often install vineyards when renovating unsightly or underutilized land, said Powers, author of "The Organic Backyard Vineyard" (Timber Press, 2012).
"It's less expensive to do grapes than traditional landscaping like shrubs and flowers from an investment viewpoint," he said. "The trade-out is that you have to put in more maintenance time."
Make no mistake: Vineyards require attention. Rootstocks must be chosen, the soil prepared, trellises and fences built, vines pruned, canopy leaves thinned, nets strung to discourage predators, grape clusters harvested and processed.
But the work can be worth it economically. Grape growers from New York to California profit by selling their crops to hobbyists or to wineries that don't have enough tonnage to meet production demands. Other growers, including those who grow table grapes, enjoy exceptional flavors from fruit seldom found in markets.
The small acreage required for a vineyard can generate surprisingly high earnings.
"Up to $3,000 to $7,000 per acre in gross returns," according to the Upper Shore Regional Council in Chestertown, Md.
Grapes also are a smart environmental choice given their modest water and fertilizer requirements, plus low soil runoff, the council said.
It doesn't take many vines to start a rewarding grape-growing venture.
"A 100-foot row of vines can yield up to 175 bottles of wine," Powers said. "With a one-acre vineyard, you could make more than 5,000 bottles."
A mild climate is not required for growing grapes. Many varieties can be grown anywhere there is an ample amount of sun and an abundance of nutrient-rich, well-drained soil. Grape-growing regions in the United States include Virginia, upper New York, southern Illinois, and extensively in California, Oregon and Washington. Many other small pockets lay elsewhere.
"It's a difficult thing to do if you live in an area where spring weather is wet for many weeks," said Gary Gao, a small fruit specialist with Ohio State University. "In Ohio, springs are so wet that you can get all kinds of fungal diseases."
Vineyard design varies greatly, but must accommodate climate and lay of the land.
"You try to match the personality of the place," Powers said. "The vineyard becomes the centerpiece of the spot you're landscaping."
Powers, for instance, built his home toward the back of the property and planted the vines up front.
"You have to drive through the vineyard to get to it (the house)," he said. "When I built one for a neighbor, we were able to wrap it around his house. It visually fit in with the house, and then we laid a trail so people could stroll through and see how they (grapes) were doing. It also incorporates a small lawn for parties."
Margot and Mario Corona live on a "very generous size lot" near Martinez, Calif. Much of their hillside property was undeveloped when they purchased it, giving them a variety of landscaping options.
"We're not in a neighborhood where we're allowed to have animals," Margot Corona said. "We didn't want some complicated landscaping. So we bought hundreds of vines — some 650 plants. With an acre of land under cultivation, it turned out to be much more than a hobby."
Growing grapes can pay off in many ways
Growing grapes can be a rewarding pursuit.
Ag Forum: Cider pressing on the move
Geissberger Farmhouse Cider has gone mobile. This cidery in Clarington, Ontario, is keeping up with the times by providing a mobile cider pressing service to Durham region farmers and farm markets.Continued ...
West prevails, Central falls
Traverse City West scored two unanswered goals in the third period Friday to win at Calumet 3-1. Meanwhile at Hancock, the host Bulldogs bolted out to a 3-0 lead and then held off Traverse City Central 6-4.Continued ...
Letters to the Editor: 12/07/2013
Where are the blowers?; Things will happen.Continued ...
'Messiah Sing' ushers in TC holiday season
David MacDougall considers himself the kind of singer who sounds better singing with a crowd than on his own.Continued ...
Sewer plant fix up for debate
City and township sewer users could face significant rate increases over the next three years to replace treatment plant components that convert sewage into near-drinkable water.Continued ...
Rob Ford: Spread holiday cheer with eye contact
‘Whatever you do, don’t make eye contact” I said to myself. “It’s OK to look at your hands, look at your shoes, look at his beard or look at anything else, but just don’t make eye contact.”Continued ...
Girls Basketball Roundup: Frankfort tops TCSF in Challenge
Guards Pauline Lausten and Shayla Soto led Frankfort to a 42-38 girls basketball win over St. Francis in the Lake Michigan-Northwest Challenge here Friday night. (Plus more)Continued ...
In old ruling, judge ruled DNA not essential
Accusations that Jason Anthony Ryan raped and killed Kalkaska resident Geraldine Montgomery in 1996 came about because a group that works to exonerate convicted criminals through DNA evidence took an interest in the case.Continued ...
Body&Soul in Brief: 12/07/2013
"Pangea's 4 Peace" fundraiser; Parkinson's Support Group Christmas party; Christmas cookie sale; and more.Continued ...
Police chief woes continue
Frankfort city officials must renew their search for a police chief after their top pick dropped out.Continued ...
More property owners sue over Boardman flooding
A new group of Boardman River property owners is suing over flooding caused by removal of the Brown Bridge Dam.Continued ...
Blood Drive Calendar: 12/07/2013
Where to donate blood in the region:Continued ...
Drug charge dropped
Authorities dismissed a felony drug charge against a Traverse City man accused of possessing a designer drug.Continued ...
Body&Soul Newsmakers: 12/07/2013
People in the news:Continued ...
Community in Brief: 12/07/2013
Child care for holiday shoppers; old-time country dance.Continued ...
Education Newsmakers: 12/07/2013
The following local graduating seniors were named Kiwanis Club of Traverse City Students of the Month:Continued ...
Bullough, Sadler earn honors
Michigan State senior linebacker Max Bullough and junior punter Mike Sadler have been named to the Capital One Division I Academic All-America first team, as selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).Continued ...
- Saturday, November 30, 2013
Letters to the Editor: 11/30/2013
Best salute possible; Global action needed.Continued ...
Blood Drives 11/30/2013
Where to give blood in the region.Continued ...
Traverse City repairman goes 'above and beyond' to save Thanksgiving Day
TRAVERSE CITY -- On Thanksgiving, the Donohue family gave thanks for what they normally take for granted: running water. And they gave special thanks to Doyle Berg, the man who was able to get their faucets flowing again. "It was just a really awesomContinued ...
Body and Soul in Brief 11/30/2013
Cookie sale; Advent Quiet Time service; Cookie Walk; Christmas Festival; and more.Continued ...
- Friday, November 29, 2013
Community in Brief 11/30/2013
Pancake dinner; nutrition seminar; holiday concerts; Benzie Community Emergency Response Team re-organizing; and more.Continued ...
- Saturday, November 23, 2013
Letters to the Editor: 11/23/2013
Listen to the people; More nuclear, please; Detroit has moved north.Continued ...
Apple crop sets records
The Michigan apply industry set new shipment records in October, and that’s no surprise to northern Michigan apple farmers.Continued ...
Ring Those Bells: Goal is $196K by Christmas Day
Tom Mountz rang his first bell for the Salvation Army as a little boy with his granfather downstate in the mid-1950s.Continued ...
- Ag Forum: Cider pressing on the move