I'm looking to start a small vineyard in the spring, with hopes of growing
it into a much larger vineyard over time. Soil prep is beginning this fall
when the backhoe arrives to dig the planting trenches. The purpose of the
vineyard will be 100% wine making. As I review supplier catelogs, I'm
overwhelmed by the # of different varieties. Where can I find good
information on the nature of particular varieties, and which will perform
best in my area?
For those willing to offer advice, my farm is located in central
Pennslyvania, in USDA zone 6. It sits along the Susquehanna River, so
benefits from the river's protection from early frosts. Good slopes,
southern exposure, etc.
Thanks in advance for any advice,
One book, not a really definitive one from the scientific perspective,
but very good over all is "Vines to Wines" by Cox. He has a number of
good tables in which he discusses degree days and varietals that need
specific heat and sun. This book will most likely lead you to others.
Another book that may help is Weaver's "Grape Growing" (John Wiley &
I think that the folks at Cornell would be able to help you. If you
cannot reach anyone there try UC Davis in CA. Their enology dept would
know how to contact someone in the East relative to this issue.
I would advise you to contact the Pennsylvania Extension Service.
I don't have the number handy but here is the web address for the lab in
case you are considering having a soil analysis done:
If you give them a call, I am sure they can point you in the right
direction. I am going to have them do some petiole analysis for me this
year since the State of Maryland no longer performs this service.
I live in Central Maryland and I can grow most vinifera varieties where I
live. I get some grapes from LaRue Vineyards near Seven Valleys, PA every
year. He grows a large variety of vinifera. This location is just across
the Maryland, Pennsylvan border and may be a little warmer than your
location. He does manage to ripen Cabernet Sauvignon almost every year.
Good luck. I know you will enjoy growing your grapes.
Here's a link to a nice .pdf doc on growing varieties, etc. in VA.
I noted a few references to winchester area,etc. Not *too* wildly
different from PA. At elast recommends specific varieties, so it
might be helpful;
All I did was google, "grape growing in virginia" to get this and others.
See what you get for PA.
Your decision can probably be made easier by deciding what kind of wine you
would like to make. If you want to make a sweeter, dessert-style wine, then
there are lot of options open in our area (I live just outside of
Philadelphia). Grapes grown here on the northeast coast tend to be higher
in acid due to our relatively shorter growing season, and if you're making a
sweeter wine, the sugar will balance that acidity.
If you're trying to make a dry red table wine, you probably want a variety
that ripens relatively early. For vinifera grapes, local vineyards seem to
grow a lot of Cabernet Franc and Merlot. You also want a variety that's
hardy down to the low temps we see in our area. That's a reason why many
vinyards in the area (and local wineries) work with French/American Hybrid
varieties. For producing red wines, varieties favoried in our area are
Chambourcin (probably the most prevalant), Chancellor, and Florental. Also
DeChaunac, which produces a good wine, but not up to par with the others.
There are other hybrid varieties for red wines, now less popular, that
produce wines considered to produced wines not quite up to par with the
others, such as Baco Noir and Foch. These and other hybrids tend to start
exhibiting the "foxy" (think Concord grape) taste in their wines (a
characteristic of native american grape varieties).
Several years ago, I planted 6 vines in my garden: 2 DeChaunac, 2 Foch, and
2 Rougeons. I've had a lot of uneven ripening, and a lot of competition
from the birds and other animals. In order to get enough grapes for a
couple gallons of wine, I pick the grapes like berries, and freeze them. I
made a light red "social" wine with just enough sweetness to offset the
acidity from them, and I have the novelty of occassionally serving up a wine
that I "grew myself." If I knew what I knew now when I planted the vines, I
would have chosen Chambourcin, Chancellor, and/or Florental varieties.
Last year, I made 5 gallons of Chambourcin wine and 5 gallons of DeChaunac
wine with grapes from a local vineyard, Vigna Del Monte in Easton. Check
I posted my story of producing the Chambourcin to
this newsgroup on 8/15, if you'd like to read that.
I know less about local grapes for white wines, as I prefer reds, but
popular hybrid varieties are Seyval, Vidal, and Vignoles.