Who better to ask than Fritz Westover, career learner, educator and leader in viticulture education. Graduating from Penn State with a degree in horticulture and an MS in Plant Pathology, he was soon Virginia Tech’s Viticulture Research-Extension Associate. Fritz later moved on to serve as Viticulture Extension Program Specialist for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service for 6 years where he developed viticulture education and research programs around Texas. Heading west, he recently took a position with the Vineyard Team in Atascadero, California, just south of Paso Robles, as Technical Program Director. The Vineyard Team is a non-profit grower-group dedicated to sustainable winegrowing. The position is new and Fritz is eager to share his accumulated experience and knowledge with the Vineyard Team members. He is putting together classes and working with growers to develop ways to grow grapes more sustainably. He also provides consulting services outside of California to grape growers through his own business, Westover Vineyard Advising.
Fritz has learned through his work in extension programs that often prospective grape growers are not coming from a farming background, and even if they were, growing grapes is very different. Here’s what we learned.
1. Find an experienced grower in your area. Ask questions. Recruit someone to advise you.
2. Send a soil sample to the lab and have it analyzed. You need an expert who understands the results. Is it suitable for growing grapes? What will the soil require? What potential issues will you be facing?
3. Is the drainage, aspect and slope good for planting a vineyard? Typically you need to drill down at least 4 feet to evaluate the soil horizons.
4. Water quality is often overlooked. Salts can be an issue. High calcium levels can cause problems later on.
5. Ask an experienced grower what he would do differently. Most often it goes back to Day 1 – drainage, more or less fertilizer, row and vine spacing, row orientation, etc.
“You’ve got one shot to put in your vineyard. Find someone with knowledge and a proven track record for growing quality grapes in your area. It will pay for itself to do it right from the start.”
Full article HERE.