The Birth of a Vineyard

My cross-training this past weekend was not hiking, climbing or skiing that I normally do the weekend before a race.  Instead I headed to the Black Hills of South Dakota to spend the weekend building a vineyard from scratch.  For full disclosure we didn’t have to prepare the ground ourselves since an unused riding ring was to be repurposed and turned into the new vineyard.  Since it was already level and fenced in we could focus on the important tasks of planting and digging holes.


The task was plagued by small issues from the start when the supply store did not ship the vines when promised so they would arrive before the weekend.  Then a rare all day rain on Friday kept us indoors for the duration.  So we reprioritized our tasks and figured we would still have plenty to do when the rains ended.


The following day was damp but clear.  The rain certainly softened the ground which helped the drilling of 150 or so holes.  Any softer and the auger would of bogged down in the mud.  Since we did not have the vines we moved down the ‘to do’ list and built a majority of the trellises structure by installing the end posts at a 60 degree angle with cement anchors as part of the anchored end post system with an earth anchor.



The vines just need to establish a strong root system this season.  They will not need the trellis structure (Geneva double curtain system) this year so the counter anchors, T posts, and wires will be installed at a later date.



Being a northern grape growing region the vines won’t be Merlot, Pinot Noir or Chardonnay.  Instead they are vigorous French-American hybrids with names of Frontenac, Marquette and LaCrescent; in all there are six red and six white varieties that will be planted to allow for both a red and white house wine each season.  None of them have lambrusca characteristics—think Welch’s grape soda—which will allow for serious blending.  At least that is the plan today.  Since it will take four to five years for the vines to mature there are other pressing issues to contend with such as keeping the deer out of the vineyard.


A common question is how much wine will that many plants produce?  A good guess is:

1 plant per 6 feet = 125 plants

1 plant = 1 gallon wine/yr = 5 bottles/yr = 125 plants x 5 bottles = 625 bottles or 52 cases/yr




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About Haliku

Mountain climber, ultrarunner, scuba instructor, world traveler, student of life
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2 Responses to The Birth of a Vineyard

  1. Tim Pruchnic says:

    Looks awesome! Makes me want to buy land and drink wine…

  2. Ultra'thoner says:

    We finally planted the last of the vines this evening. They're basically twigs with roots. But those roots are what are so essential these first years of growth as the vines establish themselves for what hopefully will be decades of production.
    Thanks for the help digging holes and setting posts… I promise it will be even more fun in a few years when it is time to harvest, make and drink wine!
    Tim: until you have some land for grapes of your own…. we'll always have wine for you!

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