Where did the month of April go? It's hard to believe time has gone by so fast, but we've gotten quite a bit accomplished and continue to make progress every day.
We started the month by celebrating Easter with family in Northwest Iowa and making the trek to Rochester, MN the following weekend to celebrate the wedding of Chloe & Eric - we had a blast! It was so great to catch up with everyone we hadn't seen in so long and was a truly welcome break from 'reality'.
But at that point, in just under a week, our vines would be arriving and we had to get to work! We (I) had originally planned to have the trellising installed before vines would be planted, but after the first, (and second, and third) night of attempts at drilling holes in the dark and fighting auger malfunctions, we soon realized it was a bigger task than we had originally anticipated.
Our vines arrived from Double A Vineyards Thursday evening and they were beautiful! As beautiful as dormant 'twigs' with their dirty bare roots exposed could be! We soaked them in water overnight and were up with the sun Friday to begin our big day of planting.
I also forgot to mention that 'Planting Day' was also the day our electricity to the barn would be connected, our new light pole would go in, and our hops trellising (Oh by the way, we planted hops too!) would be installed. So, I began by marking the grape vine holes and Preston followed with the auger to drill them. I came back through to distribute and plant in the 'downtime' when Preston was helping direct other events of the day.
It turned out to be a beautiful day - nearly 80 degrees and sunny. Both of us ended up sun burnt and exhausted, but it was worth it. We wrapped up our planting around 4:00 that afternoon, just in time to enjoy beers and burgers with neighbors and friends - a great way to end the day!
Maybe some of you are wondering if grapes really will survive in Iowa or if we've truly lost it at this point! We consulted with ISU Extension (Thanks Diana and Mike!) and talked with numerous other wineries and growers in the state to narrow down which cold hardy varieties would be best for our location. We chose to grow: Brianna - a white wine grape that has been one of our favorites since our beginning; Frontenac - a more full bodied, earthy red wine grape introduced by the University of Minnesota, so you know it's cold hardy; Frontenac Gris - a 'gray' fruit producer that lends itself well to a 'rose' wine; and Frontenac Blanc - the most recent discovery (released in 2012) that produces a white wine grape with a distinctly beautiful flavor that we can't wait to share with everyone!
Grapes are EXTREMELY Sensitive to 2,4-D and other herbicides, so we're asking everyone to spread the word and help sensitive crop growers everywhere protect their produce! This also means we're going to have to embrace the dandelions in the vineyard until the vines are more established. At that time we can pursue alternative methods for taking care of them!
If all goes as planned, we will spend two complete growing seasons training and pruning our new little friends before we finally harvest our first crop in 2017.
In the weeks since planting, we've purchased windows and doors, started wiring in the barn, and installed our water line (which let me tell you was a project in itself!)
We've [nearly] finished the trellising and set up irrigation, though the rains the last two weeks have really been a blessing and we haven't had to use it yet. Check out these little guys - we're pretty excited about them!
Preston and Amber both grew up on farms in Northwest Iowa. They share a passion for the outdoors and enjoy taking on new projects to see what adventures will be discovered. As high school sweethearts, they attended Iowa State University together, and now are continuing to pursue their dreams at Backcountry Winery.