Auld Lang Wyne

Another Christmas has come and gone and I hope it was glorious for everyone.  Now, as New Year’s Day approaches, our minds aimlessly drift to what could be in store for 2014.  I know what will be waiting for all the wine lovers out there after a few toasts on New Year’s Eve: dehydration. Ha!  Previously, I have harped on the fact that grapes need water.  Apparently, this holds true for grapes in all forms (even those consumed through a bottle of wine), as you are no doubt astonished at how thirsty for water you find yourself after a night enjoying your favorite wine.  A nagging idea has been in these Dale-sized heads since we started this little project: the drought of 2012 or a less severe situation could drastically impact our venture.

You see, in places with Mediterranean- like climates and properly draining soil, grapes can really thrive under the harshest water shortages.  The roots dig deep into the crumbling sandy soil beneath them and grow strong in an atmosphere of damp conditions and water reservoirs hidden to the eyes.  In Missouri, we pair our non-Mediterranean climate with abundant layers of impenetrable clay soil.

To best accommodate this situation, many wineries in the Midwest will equip some form of irrigation in the vineyard and we chose to follow suit.  As alluring as “dry farming” is, especially speaking to my whimsically romanticized ideas of grape growing, we just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to add the infrastructure for running water before it was too late.  This notion may frustrate the adamant wine purists amongst you readers, but Missouri is not California.  In fact, California actually has multiple environmentalist groups that advocate dry farming.  Here is a quote straight from one of these groups, the Community Alliance with Family Farmers:

“Dry farming techniques can improve grape and wine quality. Many growers have said that they trade quantity for quality when dry farming. Although dry-farmed vineyards may yield less than irrigated vineyards, the fruit that is produced often has more concentrated flavors and a deeper expression of terroir

It’s a wonderful idea and it would no doubt reduce costs up-front, but Dale Hollow is preparing for the future and Missouri does not have the water shortages faced in California.  Alas, late in the summer of 2013, the plan was set in motion:

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One phone call and a short drive of a backhoe later, we had access to water.  Of course, this wasn’t to say that we didn’t get to have a little fun ourselves:

Electricity needed to be connected…

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Water pipes were to be comfortably housed in a bed of sand (32 or so inches deep, below the frost level)..

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All orchestrated to get precious H2o from this hydrant…

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This will be the starting point for the drip irrigation system that will feed the plants the life-sustaining water they require to grow strong and yield a bountiful crop.

Drip Irrigation: an intricate network of valves, tubing, and pipes that drip water to the base of all the vines; running down each of the rows. This efficient form of hydrating grapes also reduces soil erosion and with any luck will baffle snakes so much that they stay away altogether. 

I only include these details because prior to this day, I was quite clueless on how water magically made the journey from hole in the ground to hydrant.  You can lead a boy to water, but you can’t be sure he knows how it works.

While we were at it and had a skid-steer handy, our capable operator decided to add a driveway.

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In the blink of a (really slow blinking) eye, our little slice of paradise is starting to resemble a vineyard.  Electricity, water, driveway; heck, even our first end post was ceremoniously placed in the ground to bring us to well over 1.25% completion for that particular project.

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Heavy lifting, chainsaws, shovels, mud, clay, rocks, splinters, bugs, snakes, mold, heat, cold, rain, snow, sunburns, wind burns, blisters, cuts, bruises, sweat…. and it’s only the first year!

Just as glorious as the movies and books portray it.  Happy New Year, everyone!



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