Prairie Yard Garden Growing Grapes
(gentle music) Prairie Yard Garden is a production of the University of Minnesota Morris in cooperation with Pioneer Public Television. Closed captioning is provided by Mark and Margaret YackelJuleen in honor of Shalom Hill Farm, a nonprofit rural education retreat center in a beautiful
prairie setting near Windom in southwestern Minnesota. Shalom Hill Farm, shalomhill Did you hear that a new crop is appearing on the prairieé Growing grapes has created an interest among a few individuals who like the challenge of adapting it to our region. Join me on Prairie Yard Garden as we visit a vineyard to learn about the process and challenges
of growing grapes on the prairie. (soft lighthearted music) A new crop has appeared on the prairie: growing grapes And today I have Florian Ledermann with me who's been involved with the process for the last four to five years. Florian welcome to the show and tell me, how did you get interested in growing grapesé ^We got interested actually at the
University of Morris's Horticultural Night. We sat down in a tent and learned that the university just released four new varieties of grapes that are actually coldhardy. And before that, I always kind of figured grapes were the crop that just kind of came up and never really bore and died every winter and died back. So that's what spiked our interest.
And so that very nextspring, we bought five. And they survived and I did a little more research and decided to go with an acre. And a year later, another acre so we ended up with 1,350 vines as a result of that little adventure in Morris. Larry That's interesting. 1,300 vines, how long does it take you
to put all those in the groundé Florian We used family labor. (Florian laughs) So we had, it took us, I think probably when we were planting, it took us about threedays to put one acre in. That would be for the planting. The posts and the trellis system and everything
Knowing when to harvest your grapes
gt;gt;TOM VAN DER LINDEN: It's a beautiful Septemberday in Minnesota. We're at the Horticultural Research Center at the University of Minnesotaand it's time to harvest the grapes. But how do you know when it's time to pické I'll showyou how to tell when the grapes are ripe and I'll show you some measurements to be sure,because it's important. After all, better grapes mean better wine. The most important day of the year is theday you pick. It sets in motion the annual harvest and it also determines the kind ofwine you'll make. As a grape grower and a wine maker you should keep a notebook. You'llbe glad to have records in the months and
years to come. Let's start with sight, touch, smell, andtaste. You want your grapes to be rich in color, not green. A ripe grape will crusheasily, but not be shriveled. A ripe grape is plump, and thickly juicy. It's a balancebetween sweet and tart. Each variety develops special flavors that we call varietal flavor.A fully ripe grape develops its varietal flavor more fully. Does the skin have varietal flavoré Is itherbaceous, or is it vegetal, like a green pepperé Is the aftertaste pleasant or is itbitteré Chemical or vinegar tastes or smells are flaws so take good notes if you have thatproblem. One more time, taste the grape and
imagine what the wine will be. Then we'llmove on to some lab work. It's good to use your senses but it's alsoimportant to measure. You need to measure sugar content, pH, and acidity level. Grapesare mostly water and sugar which will ferment to make wine. Brix is a term that the brewingindustry uses to measure the sugar content of grapes. Brix level helps estimate the alcohollevel of your wine. Like temperature, Brix is measured in degrees. Brix is measured witha refractometer, which you can buy at a winemaking supply store or online. Drop some juice onthe test plate, close the cover firmly and look through the viewfinder. You'll see aline where your juice registers on an internal
scale. In this case, the juice registers 24degrees Brix. A somewhat less convenient, but cheaper methodis to buy a simple glass hydrometer which has a builtin scale. Simply pour your juiceinto the cylinder, float your hydrometer and read the Brix level right off the builtinscale. The more sugar in your wine, the higher your hydrometer will float. As your grapesmature, they store more sugar so the Brix level rises. Different wine styles requiredifferent Brix levels. In general, for white wine, 22 Brix is good. We'll keep an eye onour grapes, testing them periodically, and when we reach our Brix goal, then it's timeto pick.
We now know about sugar and how to measureit. Next let's quickly shift to pH and the pH meter. You may remember pH from high schoolscience class. It's a measure of free hydrogen ions. As our grapes ripen and the sugar rises,the pH will rise too. You can buy an inexpensive, portable pH meter. Be sure you buy pH referencesolutions so you can calibrate your meter. Grape juice is full of natural acids, whichlend important qualities to wine. Every time we measure Brix we should also measure acidlevels. In a way they're opposites; as the Brix goes up, the acid levels go down. Youcan buy a simple acid test kit. It takes a little practice and a little care and you'llwant to make good records, but don't worry,
you can do it! So enough with measuring and tasting, let'sgo pick! Are you ready to pické Let's start by pickinga good sample. Yes, you can pick one grape, put it in your refractometer and take a sugarsample, but it won't be very representative of all your grapes. Instead, pick individualgrapes from many clusters. Sample from both sides of the vine, high and low, in sunnyareas and shaded areas, and pick from different parts of each cluster. An ideal sample mightbe 50 grapes. But if you only have a few vines, it'll be okay to take a smaller sample. Makea note about how they felt, how they smelled,
Pruning grape vines in Minnesota
gt;gt;TOM VAN DER LINDEN: It's spring in Minnesota,a great time to prune grape vines. Proper
pruning of grape vines means better grapes.And better grapes mean better wine. We'll cover basic pruning for a northern climate.For details on how to prune for your climate, check with your state university extension. Year one, we take the initial shoot and wetrain it into a trunk. Year two, we pick two healthy shoots and we train them to our trellis.We'll take the two healthiest shoots and train them on the trellis to form a cordon. We'llprune off the other shoots leaving just the trunk and the cordons. To review quickly,our first shoot we train into a trunk in year one, then in year two we take our two bestshoots and we train them to the trellis to
make cordons. Year three, the trunk of our vine is gainingstrength and circumference. We have cordons that are now trained to a trellis and offeach cordon we have new shoots. Toast yourself, you've learned three new terms.We have trunk, cordon and shoot. Now we'll learn three new terms, and then we'll moveon. The top of a trunk where it stops is calledthe head of the vine, and this vineyard for this particular grape the head is about fourfeet off the ground. You'll see vineyards where the head is higher or lower dependingon the use of the grape, the kind of trellis they're using. So it'll be okay to have differentheights.
In spring, a new green shoot grows from ourcordon. And now after the leaves have fallen in the fall, the shoot becomes a cane. Forspring pruning, we're going to take last year's cane, and when we clip it again, it will becomea spur. Working on a little older vine, here's thehead and the nice, thick trunk. We have a cane, and then a spur, and then a cane, andthen a spur. Don't worry, you'll soon get the hang of it. Taking a closeup look, we have the cordonhere, and we have a shoot from last year coming off and we need to shorten the shoot now inspring to make a spur. so that we can control
our fruit load. Let's count buds: we havea bud here, we have a bud here, we have a bud here, and we have a bud here, and so forth.On some varieties, this bud close to the cordon is not fruitful so we won't count those buds.We'll count first a bud here and a bud here and make our cut out here. In other varietieswe will need to count this bud as one, two, and we'll make our cut here. Whatever youdo, you'll want to keep good records so when you go back into your vineyard you can seehow the fruit responded to your pruning. So let's count the buds on this cane. We haveone, two, three buds, and we're looking for two. So we have one bud, two buds, and weclip there.
We need to prune this vine to control boththe fruit load and the sun exposure. It's important in a northern climate to get goodsun exposure on your grapes so that they ripen fully. This is a Frontenac vine that's growingand the cordons are growing along the upper trellis wire. So let's estimate the fruitload on this particular vine. We have seven fruiting spurs on each cordon, and each spurhas two buds. Now each bud will produce two clusters of grapes. We can look up the grapevariety we're growing and we can find out what an average cluster will weigh. In thiscase, they will weigh about four ounces. First, simply convert pounds of grapes toounces. Next, divide number of ounces by the number