Grape Pest Management
Commercial Grape Spray Guide
Private Pesticide Application Certification
Constructing a Vineyard Trellis
Trellis Systems for Your Vineyard
While the snow is on the ground and the grape plants are dormant there is a lot of activity going on in the vineyard. There are twelve acres of plants to prune before the first shoots appear in late April early May. Each plant is pruned by hand, removing last years shoots and leaving buds to grow into new shoots for this years harvest.
The soil is tested and the necessary fertilizer ordered. Grapes require a special fertilizer that local companies do not carry on hand. March begins the busy time of spreading the fertilizer and applying preemergence to the grape rows to control the weed growth.
We currently have Nortons on a Geneva Double Curtain trellis system, Seyval Blanc on a vertical shoot trellis system, Vignole on a vertical shoot and Scott Henry trellis systems, Chardonel on a Scott Henry trellis system, Chambourcin on a single high wire and vertical shoot trellis system, Golden Muscat on a single high wire, and Cabernet Franc on a vertical shoot trellis system. We also have Niagara and Seedless Concord. Each trellis system has its own advantages for each variety of grapes.
May brings the beginning of our busy season in the vineyard. We have to mow the grass at least once weekly depending on the amount of rain we receive. The shoots are beginning to reach the lower training wire and the clusters are appearing. We sucker each plant by hand (to sucker means to remove all the shoots which grow between the ground and the cordon wire). We have to do this at least three times during the growing season. We also spray for weeds in the rows once a month. This is a very time consuming process because you must be very careful not to spray the grapes. As the shoots begin to grow over the second training wire we begin summer hedging. This process involves trimming the shoots above the top wire to keep them from growing over the wire and shading the grape clusters. We do this to each plant a minimum of three times during the growing season. As we summer hedge, we tuck any shoots that are growing outside the training wires inside the wires so they can support the grape clusters as they grow. We then begin a process called cluster thinning and leaf thinning. This process improves the quality of the fruit. If the excess clusters and leaves surrounding the clusters in the fruiting zone are not thinned the grapes would not reach the levels of sugar, pH, and TA that the wineries want to produce the best quality of wine possible. It is crucial that the vineyards partner with the wineries at this point of the growing season. You cannot produce a high quality wine from a poor quality grape.
As the harvest approaches we test a sample of the grapes daily and notify the wineries of the results. We pick the grapes when both the vineyard manager and the wineries' wine master feel they are at their peak. We harvest each cluster by hand, selecting only the highest quality clusters. The grapes are immediately cooled in our 20'x20'x9' walk-in cooler to ensure that they maintain their optimum quality throughout the harvest process. Grapes that are harvested and not cooled immediately after picking will begin to ferment and develop an odor similar to vinegar. If it takes a few days to pick the desired amount of grapes and you don't have a cooler to store them in your crop is ruined. We ship an average of six to ten tons at a time. Consider picking by hand 140,000 pounds of grapes in a very short time window and you have a realistic idea of what it means to own a vineyard. We have not discussed the major obstacles that you encounter such as weather (you cannot pick after a rain because it changes the pH and sugar), disease (poor maintenance invites disease which can wipe out your entire crop), or birds (they love to eat the fruit that you have so lovingly cared for the entire year). Too little or too much rain is not good for your crop, improper disease control can ruin your crop, and one large flock of birds can devour all of your crop. If you have ever heard that owning a vineyard is "romantic", "care-free", or "worry-free" come spend a season with us. You will have a rude awakening. Even though it is a lot of hard work and so many factors can affect the quality of your fruit, it is well worth it when you sit back and sip that glass of wine that just won a gold medal and the Illinois Governor's Cup Award.
Just ask Fred Koehler, owner of Lynfred Winery in Roselle Illinois, Doug Seitz Lynfreds' wine master, Rick and Maria Mamoser, owner of Prairie State Winery, or John Harp owner of Two Oaks Vineyard, Benton Illinois!
To Learn More About Illinois Wineries and Illinois Vineyards Please Visit The Following Links:
Illinois Wine.Org: information about wineries, festivals & events, IGWRC, IGGVA, awards, etc.