|Early Spring in the Upper Vineyard (3700 feet).|
|Migrant sharecroppers arrive to pick.|
|Punching down 25 gallons of Merlot.|
|Attending pressing matters. Red wine free run coming out the press.|
|Labels for wine bottles.|
Sky Valley Vineyards
Sky Valley Vineyards, located in the Southern Appalachians, has vineyards in the mountains of Georgia and North Carolina at elevations of 3200 and 3700 feet. It is hoped that high elevations with more severe winters will limit
Pierces's Disease and that global climate change will shift the grape growing band across the United States north to these higher elevations.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Marquett, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Vignole, and Zinfandel have been planted to see what will survive and produce the best wine in this climate and soil.
Lessons Learned the Hard Way
- A vineyard is labor intensive.
- Cold hardy hybrids, e.g. Marquett, are the wrong way to go, as they leaf out as soon as it warms. Instead, temperate vines that will survive the cold are less likely to leaf out early and then be killed by a late spring freeze.
- Growing grapes is a lot of hard work.
- An aggressive fungicide spraying program is necessary to prevent black rot.
- Bird netting is required when the grapes ripen.
- A vineyard is very labor intensive.
- Proper pruning and canopy management, even dropping fruit, are essential to ensure sugar levels are high enough at harvest.
- Potassium Metabisulfite must be applied during crush to kill spoilage bacteria.
- Before adjusting pH, or most anything else, after carefully calculating the amount of additive, always bench test with a small quantity of wine to make sure the treatment will produce the desired result, instead of ruining a vat of wine by putting in too much additive.
- Quality wine starts with healthy vines, but healthy vines come from healthy soil.
- Read the book. Again. And again. And again.
The first two books are available as free downloads thanks to the North Carolina Cooperative Extension and Lum Eisenman. These two books are the some of the best available. If you are considering starting a vineyard they are a "must have".
- The Mid-Atlantic Winegrape Grower's Guide
This excellent production guide provides a wealth of practical information on site appraisal, establishment and operation of commercial vineyards in Virginia and North Carolina.
- The Home Winemakers Manual by Lum Eisenman
Another excellent book covering all aspects of winemaking.
- From Vines to Wines by Jeff Cox
An excellent book from selecting the varieties to plant to bottling the wine.
- Winery Technology and Operations: A Handbook for Small Wineries by Yair Margalit