Friday, June 8, 2012

What's growing? Black Spanish and Blanc du Bois grapes

Black Spanish Grapevine rootstock
I have always been fascinated by grapevines. The endless rows of beautiful green vines perfectly manicured so that all the vines are the same height and size. Growing them certainly looked romantic or perhaps that is the way that Hollywood portrays it. In reality they looked like they were high maintenance and susceptible to a whole lot of problems. So up until now I didn't even try and depended only on the wild Mustang grapes that grow here for jams and jellies. Some people also make great wine from the Mustang grapes.

About a year ago John and I met a couple who would really change our thinking about growing grapes especially in South Texas.. Both Doug and Beth are retired educators and a few years ago they relocated to a little town just south of here and started, as a hobby, growing grapes and making a few bottles of wine. Their hobby bloomed into a wonderful little cottage business,  Lavaca Bluffs Vineyard and Winery..  This little business is growing and would grow much faster if they wanted it to. For now, the success they have had is just right.  They'll remind you, they really are retired.

Several times Doug has encouraged us to start our own rootstock. He has his own method of doing it and has told us and demonstrated enough times that we could recite it in our sleep. And so we grabbed our first rootstock from him the other day with yet another hand full of slips that came from his 34 degree cooler.  Yes, they are finicky, susceptible to a whole lot of diseases and other problems but we have guidance just down the road. Just keeping the baby rootstock alive this summer will be a big challenge.

As for the Mustang grapes, Doug uses those too as well as berry's, peaches and pears. I am hoping that next year when our fig trees are in full fruit we might try using figs. We've talked about it.

Doug and Beth have learned their wine making secrets by trial and error and as Doug would tell it, plenty of error. They are still learning, although when you listen to them you would think they have been doing this for a long time. We are just learning and our interest in growing the grapes is not to make wine, jams or jellies but to eat or barter for other things. Once established and you can be pretty sure they will not succumb to Pierce disease then you will have many years of grapes production. These grapes should be pruned every year and the grapevine you clip or prune can be started as more root stock. You could virtually reproduce these grapes forever.

John helps them prune in the late winter each year and brings home viable grapevine to root. When he does it seems like the time just isn't there to start them. However, after seeing Doug's rootstock start bed and understanding how he starts them we plan to recreate this same above ground bed very soon.

As we move through this new challenge we'll keep you posted. In the meantime if you are interested there are many websites and other blogs that have great information. Or, you can always email Doug and Beth and tell them we sent you. I am sure they would be happy to answer your questions.

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