The Texas Wine & Grape Growers Association’s (TWGGA) Grape Camp 2014 was held in Fredericksburg from November 2-3. Like last year’s event, the first day was geared toward New Growers and the second day was for Advanced Growers. The event drew 250 total people for both days which is the highest attendance rate ever. This is great news for the Texas wine industry which needs more vineyards and grapes available for Texas wine.
Even though the first day was primarily for new growers, there were still quite a few very established growers present too. A question was asked to the audience to see who was thinking about growing a vineyard, and about a third of the audience raised their hands. I hope the presentations didn’t scare them off, because as we all learned, there is a lot of planning and time needed to do it right.
Topics for the first day included:
- What Grape Growers Need to Know About Their Soil
- Developing a New Vineyard
- Grape Varieties and Rootstocks
- Planting a Vineyard
- Grapevine Growth and Training
- Introduction to Pest Management
- Cotton Root Rot
Soil and water were very important topics during the day especially for those looking for land to start a vineyard. The type of soil like sandy or clay provides different needs such as clay soil with poor drainage and aeration. The irrigation water also affects the soil and salt problems are common with certain types of water. Improving the soil drainage is often necessary but is fixable.
There are hundreds of decisions to consider when developing a new vineyard such as business model, business plan, vineyard site selection, grape varieties and clones, rootstock, training system, vine and row spacing, and vineyard layout. You need to be careful with the vineyard site selection because most likely you only get one chance. A potential vineyard site assessment form is available on the Texas Winegrape Network website. Another great resource for determining the right soil information on a particular location is on the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s website.
One interesting thing learned is when purchasing vines, try to order at least a year in advance, and most likely 18 months, in order to receive them. Dormant vines are preferable and you want the vines to arrive with a little time before planting so they have a chance to acclimate. Before the vines come, the site should be prepped and ready, rows and vine planting spots marked or trellis system in place, irrigation system in place and ready, labor available, and supplies on hand (vines, stakes, grow tubes, etc.).
A Hill Country varietal survey was done which was very interesting with the results. The top planted acres for white varieties are: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Muscat, and Viognier. The top planted acres for red varieties are: Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah.
There was a wealth of information available to growers and even advanced growers were taking notes. At the end of the seminars, the audience broke up into four groups depending on the region of the state they either already had a vineyard or were thinking about planting a vineyard. Experienced growers relayed information to the groups and answered any questions people had.
It was time for one of the favorite things of any Grape Camp̶—wine! A wine and cheese reception was held with many different wines from around the state available to sample. Following the reception was a great German dinner, appropriate especially since the event was being held in Fredericksburg.
Day two arrived which was for advanced growers. A large number of new growers were still in attendance and experienced growers arrived for the topics directed to them. Topics discussed during the day were:
- The Art and Science of Soil Fertility
- Vineyard Soils
- Non-Traditional Soil Additives and Salinity
- Frost Protection
Most of the same speakers from the first day also presented during the second day with more advanced information.
Always interesting at a Grape Camp are the exhibitors who provided information on their services. Just a sampling of some of them were Vintage Nurseries, Texas Plant & Soil Lab, Submatic Drip Systems, and Regnier Insurance.
Grape Camp 2014 was another success which was clearly evident by the largest attendance ever at a Grape Camp.