If “Wine is Personal” is the motto of our winery, then “not everything goes according to plan” is the motto of our vineyards.
We have often mused how wonderful it would be if we could just put some vines in the ground and come back in a few months to find bottles of wine springing forth from the shoots, ready to be enjoyed. Heck, we would even be thrilled if we could discover some kind of vineyard utopia whereby we put vines in the ground, they grew fast, strong, and in a uniform manner all reaching the trellis in the first year with grapes abounding by year two. Alas, this is not (ever) the case, and here’s a few reasons why:
A universal altruism of any winery with vineyards in the Midwest is that you will have weeds, and all of the methods to eradicate them involve glorious work. Plus, to make matters more wondrous, it’s always hot and humid when they grow and sometimes poison ivy decides to reside amongst them. Because it’s not bad enough that there’s a slight probability of a snake in the grass, so a surprise case of a horrid itchy rash makes things heart-pulsating exciting.
Weeds have the potential to choke out a plant altogether; but what is more common if left unchecked, is that they will simply out-compete the vine for sunshine and water. Then, the vintner is left with a weak and spindly vine, far from the trellis, year after year:
Japanese beetles are the proverbial locust of the vineyard. They ascend from what must be the deepest realms of evil within the earth, and flock to vineyards to have evil raves and gluttonous feedings that make a midnight weekend scene at Taco Bell seem reserved and respectable. I call them the scourge of the vineyard. It’s too polite. There are traps available, but beetles laugh in the face of these as the phermone simply lures in more of the hoards. You see them and they see you, they motion with their evil little legs a dreadful sign language of ancient dark ages and a grimace knowing fully well that if you smite them from their being, three more will take their place.. Like some kind of twisted existential circle of evil beetle life.
Needless to say, they are a pain. Here are some of the worst cases in our vineyard, where they surprised us after we were away for just a few days:
The traps will catch beetles by the thousands but they most likely bring more than what you already had and then you have the joy of disposing of a big bag of nasty beetles. They will drink organic sprays for breakfast like a Bloody Mary before they move on to the brunch that is your vineyard. Liquid Sevin is the best and only solution we have found, but be sure that you re-apply after a few rains and don’t spray within one week of harvesting your grapes. Rumor has it that this is the peak year for Japanese Beetles in Missouri and they will steadily decline from here on out. Let us all hope this is the case.
Ah, Bambi. A list of vineyard pests isn’t complete without these innocent forest creatures. Innocent, that is, until they start believing that all those hours we spend in the spring planting and pruning is for them to have a unique snack of fresh grapevine growth. We always acknowledged they would eat ripe grapes if left unchecked, we underestimated their lustful appetite to eat the vines before they even produced grapes. The savages know no mercy.
Basically, without deterrents of any kind, the deer eat the new growth down to the dirt before they ever have a chance to hit the trellis or harden off to a woody trunk that they will eventually leave alone. No, they chow down on the new stuff and can set a young vineyard back by a year. We had a dry June and a family of deer had their way with our second year Norton and before we realized it, had eaten a majority of the new growth down to the grow tubes. Without the tubes, they would have nibbled their way all the way to the ground:
The silver lining in this is the timing of their little feast. It occurred in June and there was plenty of time for regrowth; hope springs eternal that these Norton will all reach the trellis for year three now that we have put the deterrents in place. The new growth is looking promising. Important lesson here: don’t give up at any point during the growing season.. And don’t believe Disney and its propondrous portrayal of animals as anthropomorphised creatures of innocence.
Dear Disney, dragons have infinitely greedy black hearts and breathe fire, lions are territorial, can be mean, and don’t sing songs, and deer are selfish vineyard eating menaces to society.
Stay tuned for more plagues, when we discuss that fungi is not a fun guy and why grapes don’t like wet feet but they do bicker a bit when it comes to desert conditions. Regular ol’ Goldilocks we grow here, these persnickety vines.