Planting a vineyard, part two |

Planting a vineyard, part two

If last week’s article on planting a vineyard inspired you to take the next step but you are still a little confused, you’re not alone.

Now what?

“If I asked five people the same question, I would get five different answers,” Guy Lauterbach told me. “It drove me crazy. I’m an engineer. I like straightforward, black-and-white answers.”

As Guy found out, there are lots of options when planting a vineyard.

Starting with basic questions like what kind of grapes to plant, how to orient the rows, how wide to make the rows or how far apart to plant the vines will all generate a maze of possible answers. Vine density can vary from 300 vines an acre to 2,700 vines an acre.

Grape growers around the world use dozens of different trellising systems, depending on climate and grape selection.

Once you’ve got your grapes established, pruning also offers many styles. Which one are you going to select?

It’s enough to send you running to the store to buy a bottle of wine.

The very first thing you should do is join the Sierra Grape Growers Association ( It’s $50 a year, and membership gives you access to their members-only page, which is loaded with useful information and valuable links about both grape growing and wine making.

The association holds a meeting once a month with informative speakers, plus it’s an all-around good place to network about all things grape. Plus there are valuable spread sheets on estimating vineyard costs, vineyard components and a vineyard planting timeline.

More resources

U.C. Davis Cooperative Extension ( is another valuable resource, with lots of pamphlets and printouts. Ron Morris, who teaches a class about starting a home vineyard, can be reached at Secret Ravine Winery

Here are a few good books about grape growing:

• “Wine Grape Varieties In California,” published by University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, is an encyclopedia of information about dozens of wine varieties, rootstocks, clones, training, pruning, trellising and canopy management, and insect and disease problems. It’s a wonderful book for helping decide exactly what to plant.

• “From Vines to Wines,” by Jeff Cox, published by Story Books, is a terrific how-to book that demystifies grape growing and wine making. From site selection, trellising, planting and pruning, to turning the grapes into wine, he guides you through the process.

• “A Wine-Growers Guide,” by Philip Wagner and published by The Wine Appreciation Guild, is another excellent, practical guide to establishing, nurturing, pruning and managing a vineyard. Wagner’s companion book, “Grapes Into Wine,” remains one of the best books on home winemaking that I have ever read.

Get out and plant

The most important thing about planting a vineyard is doing it. If you wait for the perfect moment, it may never come. There is always some reason to put it off until next year.

Whether it’s a single vine in a pot on your deck, or a few vines in your back yard, get them planted. Go to the nursery and buy some bare root vines, or go to a vineyard and bring back some cuttings and root them yourself.

It takes almost no money to plant a few vines. Just do it!


Rod Byers is director of marketing at Nevada City Winery, is a CSW certified wine educator, teaches wine classes at Sierra College and is a California state-certified wine judge. He can be reached by at or 913-3703.

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