So, you have caught the vineyard bug and have been dreaming about walking through row after row of beautiful purple grapes in your back yard. What do you want to accomplish with your vineyard? Do you want your small vineyard for table grapes, juice grapes or our favorite choice, wine grapes? Sit back and pour a glass of California cabernet and let’s get started!
You have an entrepreneurial spirit and a love for wine. That’s why you’ve decided to start a vineyard of your own. Now is a great time to become a part of the ever-expanding wine market, too. Consider the following statistic regarding wineries throughout the United States. It suggests that in the year 2019 alone, the industry generated $27 billion in sales. It’s time for you to cash in on that growing industry. Would your vineyard be more for personal use, or would you like to grow enough to sell to small commercial or home wine makers? Do you want to just grow grapes or produce your own wine on site? These questions can help you figure out how much land you’ll need and how much you can expect to spend.
Spending some time doing research before you start your project will increase your level of success. If you’re considering starting a vineyard on your property, here are some things to think about before you start planting.
Location Scouting Will Be Crucial
If you want to succeed as a small vineyard entrepreneur, the location you choose to set up shop is significant. The location of your vineyard in combination with the kinds of grapes you grow will make or break its success.
A big thing to consider is that of the local weather. If you have decided on a certain varietal of grape, the correct climate for that varietal is necessary for growing a successful vineyard. Most kinds of grapes need to be grown in an area where there’s no frost at all for about two-thirds of the year. That’s why so many vineyards do well in the state of California. Vines like warm sunny days and cool nights. You should look to plant vines on gently sloping terrain for good drainage with lots of sun exposure from the south and west. Maximizing sun exposure to the crop is a key objective when considering your vineyard design.
If you find a potential plot of land you find interesting for a vineyard, talk to the neighbors. If people in the area are succeeding with their own vineyards with the same varietal that you have decided to grow, it’s probably a suitable location to create your vineyard. Plus, they will likely be willing to give you some advice about starting your own vineyard in the area and recommend a local vineyard consultant for expert advice. Before you purchase a property, take soil samples at various depths to test the soil so you have confidence that you will be able to amend the soil appropriately because highly acidic or highly alkaline soil doesn’t work as well for the grape plants. This pot holing will allow you to determine the depths of the hardpan layers to make an informed decision regarding the desired type of soil ripping (depth, number of passes, etc.) for this specific planting area.
Another great practice for location scouting is to consider buying an old, unkempt vineyard. Perhaps the ownership gave up on the growing process many years ago. Transforming an old vineyard into your own can prove to be just as better than starting from scratch depending on its condition and your intended purpose.
You’ll Need Deep Ripping to Replant an Old Vineyard or Start a New One
If you’ve found an ideal property with a vineyard that needs to be replaced (or if you plan to start a new one), you will need to deep rip the soil if the land is located in an area with hardpan layers.
Deep ripping, in essence, churns all of the soil layers in the planting area. This is important because the planting area needs to have usable soil available at a depth greater than what currently exists above the Northern California hardpan layers. Deep ripping the soil shatters the hardpan layers and is necessary to provide drainage as well as to allow for roots to penetrate the hardpan layers. The benefits of deep ripping are not just limited to just giving the roots more volume for growing capacity (like when you transplant a tomato plant to a larger pot), it also mixes the soil layers and nutrients as well as creates a larger capacity for the soil to support the water and nutrients as desired. Deep ripping also ensures the land has a uniform soil composition to provide optimal growing conditions.
Be prepared to get familiar with the process of deep ripping during the vineyard establishment process. For more detailed guidance, check out this article on how to remove a vineyard and prepare the field for a new one.
Plan for the Initial and Long-Term Costs of Running a Vineyard
It’s understandable to think about the financial cost of a vineyard first and foremost. You’ll need to invest a great deal of time, effort and resources. In many cases, this can require a business loan or other financing.
Constructing a vineyard can cost upwards of $40,000 per acre. You will need to budget for a vineyard consultant and excavation contractors to plan the orientation, spacing of plants and rows, irrigation and desired type of trellis system, and to determine the desired type and amounts of soil amendments as well as the depth, direction and number of passes to be applied in the deep ripping process. After vineyard establishment, additional funds will be necessary for equipment as well as seasonal crews to maintain and harvest the crop for a few years until the production level is adequate to cover costs.
Work with Industry Experts to Start a Vineyard of Your Own
It’s no secret that any responsible business owner needs a solid team of talented people around him or her. If you’re going to start a vineyard, you’re starting a business. That’s why it’s so essential to surround yourself with the top talent and experts in the area.
Many vineyards operate with a contracted vineyard manager/consultant and rotating staff of seasonal helping hands. We highly recommend that you find your experienced vineyard consultant before you purchase a property or start planning your vineyard. Doing things correctly the first time will save you a lot of time and money. After all, even experts recognize that hiring a vineyard team will make or break its success.
One Last Thing
It will take at least two years to produce fruit and probably more than three years to break even. Vineyards require a large up-front investment of time and money and a great deal of patience in waiting for profit. If you have the will and are ready for hard work, your dream of your own vineyard can turn into a reality and a beautiful view from your family room.