Monday, May 4, 2009


We're going to try to get some vines in the ground today. This old vineyard is comprised of three different blocks, two of them still containing original vines going back to the initial planting in 1973 (the Chardonnay and the Cabernet Sauvignon). We believe these are the oldest commercial plantings of these varieties in Pennsylvania still producing. That said, the block is nowhere near 100% made up of vines that are that old.

Vines have a lifespan of 20-30 some years usually (under normal conditions.) In unusual cases, they can go past 100 years. But Pennsylvania isn't normal (for more reasons than just weather), so individual vines tend to die out from time-to-time. This calls for replanting those spots. This is what we're up to this week.

Our vineyard was originally planted with twelve foot rows and eight feet between vines. Pretty standard California spacing from the 1970s. This comes to about 454 vines per acre. These days, the thinking is that denser is better for wine quality, so I decided last year that we needed to plant vines in between each of the older ones. We started that project then, and we're trying to finish it now.

On Saturday, four of us planted 250 Chardonnay vines. The goal was for even more yesterday, but the rain changed those plans. We're trying again today with the Cabernet Sauvignon. Wish us luck....


  1. Carl, I have often heard you speak of the weather at your vineyard as being similar to Baltimore, in terms of the average temperature and the amount of rain per season. In the above post, you spoke of reducing the space between vines so that they may struggle for nutrients/water in an effort to produce some potentially better fruit. Assuming the same vinifera varietals and the same average harvesting schedule, what would you do differently in your vineyard with maybe a 5 to 7 degree lower average summer temperature, if anything? For example, would you reduce the width between rows, or would you trellis your vines closer to the ground, less vigor...etc etc. Without capital restraints, of course. Also, if you would have the time to discuss grass as a cover crop in terms of pros/cons in your particular situation. Thank you.. Howard

  2. Howard, man, you're not starting me off with any easy ones are you? OK, our vinifera varietals are Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Riesling. If we had summers that were cooler, I don't think I would even try to grow Cabernet. We're already on the edge of getting Cab right each year. On the other hand, it's too hot for Riesling, so cooler temperatures would probably help this variety.

    See, you opened a can of worms with this one. The short answer, though, is that I would look to France and see what the French do in their northern climates. Chardonnay in the Cote d'Or is very different from Chardonnay in Chablis or Chardonnay in Champagne. The wine styles change to match the climate.

    Keep in mind, I'm not a viticulturist. I am a winegrape grower and need all the help I can get. That said, I would think I would want to lower the pounds per vine with denser spacing (to have more root capacity per cluster) and to lower the fruiting wire to keep it closer to the warmth of the ground.

    Site selection would be key. It would definitely need to be south facing, probably 3-10% grade with exceptional drainage to work for most vinifera.

    Hope this helps. I'll try to address the cover crop issue at some other point.



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