The Northern Grapevine

Planting, Growing, Expanding

Upper Hudson wine trail startup

In Autumn 2007 Gerry dug and refilled trenches visible from Route 40. Those trenches would become our first rows of grape vines. Many travelers slowed down when passing, and some stopped to inquire about what we were "doing to a perfectly good alfalfa field". We wondered ourselves. Would this experiment work out?

In Spring 2008, with the help of family, we installed a trellis system and planted 248 grape vines – three rows of the marquette grape and one row of melody.

Luckily for us, we picked winners. The marquette grape, developed at the University of Minnesota and introduced in 2006, survived the winter. At the end of the third growing season we harvested enough grapes to make a barrel of wine. Wow! The wine we crafted with that first harvest was very good. We didn’t know it at the time, but the development of the marquette grape represented a new standard for cold climate wine making. We were hooked!

Planting first row of marquette grapes

In 2010, 2011 and again in 2013 we added more vines and now have six varieties of wine grapes on a total of nearly four acres. We have over an acre of both marquette and la crescent and lesser amounts of marechal foch, lacrosse and frontenac.

We first harvested that row of melody grapes, developed at Cornell, the end of the fourth growing season. Now it’s providing nearly the largest weight of grapes per vine, so, we plan to plant more.

The melody grape was commercially released by Cornell University in 1985. It's cold hardiness is rated to -15°F, though our vines survived winter temperatures to -18°F. It's generally disease resistant, but can be susceptible to downy mildew on the wrong site. Melody vines produce large-sized berries with thick skins, and reliable crop weights on well established vines. It's a late starter which can be helpful in avoiding Spring frosts, and it's a late finisher with high sugar content. Melody is always the last grape variety we harvest in our vineyard.

melody grapes on Upper Hudson Wine Trail

Why plant more? One row - 62 vines - of melody grapes does not make quite enough wine to fill an oak barrel. Currently, we use carboys of it to top off barrels of our lacrosse. Making a varietal wine with the melody grape is on our must-do checklist. (Full disclosure - Gerry is a Cornell grad, and he wants to have at least one Cornell variety.) Most importantly, we sell out of some wines. We want to make our customers happy.

So, if you see us up on the hill adjacent to our winery building futzing around, we’re clearing a hedgerow and preparing a field to make room for our vineyard expansion. Starting next spring, we plan to double the size of our vineyard over two years.

The adventure continues!