As my family and I prepare a site east of Boulder, Colorado for a small production vineyard – I came across a posting in my local home brew store, Hop to It for a Backyard Grape Growing Workshop. You can scour the web for information, talk to grape growers in Grand Junction, you name it – but to find someone on the front range, growing the necessary hybrid grapes for wine making, and successfully making decent wine is a little harder to find! This workshop was put together by John Martin and Kayann Short, who operate a community supported agriculture (CSA) program called Stonebridge Farm. To make a long story short, we were able to setup a one on one workshop with John and Kayann, as we had missed the original by over a week. We setup a date and our mission with the workshop: to figure out what grapes we could/should grow, how to do it, and what to expect.
My dad Roy and I met John just east of Lyons, CO this past week and sat down in a converted hog barn (actually a lot nicer than it sounds) complete with greenhouse and a renovation using only salvaged materials. John talked us through the different grapes that people are growing in the area – a lot of Frontenac, Leon Millot, and St. Croix with interest in Marquette and Noiret (I’m actually growing those first three, and it was reassuring to hear that they are some of the more suitable varieties for this climate and red wine making). We left the building to head out into Stonebridge Farm’s vineyard, which consists of ten different varieties – about 2/3 reds and 1/3 whites.
We learned in great detail about the various pruning techniques for upright and trailing growth habit vines as well as what exactly that means and how to figure out what vines like to do what! It’s simple…really – but not really. It’s fairly complex trying to read about it but in person, makes a lot more sense. Cane vs. spur pruning, VSP vs. Geneva Double Curtain trellising techniques and even pruning strategies for late bud break to avoid the late spring frosts that can really hamper the productivity of a vine are terms and ideas I feel familiar with now. Lots of knowledge to be shared and a big thanks for John for having us over for a ‘custom’ workshop. We were even offered a sampling of a Frontenac and St. Croix blend red wine that was super tasty – giving us a lot of hope for the wines we’ll be able to produce here in Boulder, Colorado and in particular, wine from the vines I’ve already had in the ground for 2 years now.
They are planning on putting together a 3 part workshop: pruning, harvesting, and wine making I believe. You can get in touch with John and Stonebridge Farms at http://www.stonebridgefarmcsa.com/. Tell him Roy and Allen sent you and maybe they’ll share some of their 2008 St. Croix Frontenac – which is only going to get better with age!