Anyone growing grapes for wine?

So I’m thinking about putting in a 100’ grape trellis of Seyval Blanc grapes. Hoping to make a couple of gallons of white wine a year at some point. If things go well I’m hoping to expand and maybe make some red as well.

The reason I’m choosing this variety is that its a Hybrid, which I’ve read withstands our climate better than the V. Vinifera’s do. It is also grown near me very successfully for years in a winery called Clinton Vineyards.
so I figured I would start with what’s already proven to grow here.

I actually don’t know much about wine grapes at all, so I was hoping you guys could give me some advice.

Is this a totally crazy idea? or do you guys think it could be pulled off? Advice?

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I don’t grow wine grapes, but live among a number of small and medium-sized vineyards and have made wine for many years ,and will provide a few thoughts that hopefully are helpful.

If you are primarily interested in making wine, consider buying frozen or fresh grapes (frozen are easier because they come crushed and stemmed for red, which will save you the initial cost of some gear, and already as (frozen) juice, for white) and experimenting a bit–the amateur winemaker is often able buy grapes as good as s/he can grow. If you passed chemistry in school, you can make wine from frozen grapes that an average person will say they would pay for in a restaurant. If you are considering buying fresh grapes, PM me for some more info.

Making small batches of quality white wine is a bit more difficult than red, as it is hard to prevent oxidation in the processing of small batches and whites are more susceptible to degradation from it. It’s possible, just a bit more work. So, if space permits, maybe consider aiming for more than a couple gallons per year.

If there are deer and other critters in your area, think about a dog :). If wineries near you net their vineyards, be prepared for doing that, too.

This is a great excuse to drink a lot of local wine–hit up the vineyard managers to find out what rootstocks and clones they are using and why, or university extension sources. Try to get a sense of how the wine from different vineyards varies based on aspect, elevation, slope, soil, and how water moves (or not) over the vineyard. If the vineyards plant different grapes in different conditions, it may help guide your choice. If Riesling is grown well locally, I’d encourage you to also consider it (if you like the local Riesling, of course). Small batch wine quality is dominated by the quality of the fruit. It’s a rough analogy, but Riesling is to white grapes what Flavor King is to pluots, i.e., one of the superior pieces of fruit and able of producing interesting wine in varying conditions from year to year.

After selecting variety and rootstock (if needed), there are a few training systems to choose from, but you can read up on those and they likely will not be the limiting factor in quality. Planting density you can get from looking at local vineyards. There has been a trend to increasing planting density over time, so the newer vineyards likely will have higher density than the older ones. There is plenty of information on how much yield you can aim for, what brix to harvest at, etc. and hopefully you have a good source of university extension information in your area to provide local best practices. If you can find a vineyard that is similar to your location (elevation, slope, soil, aspect, and how water moves) definitely try to pick the brain of the person(s) who tends those grapes as for advice. When it’s time to pick in the Fall, it’s often an “all hands on deck” problem for small wineries and they commonly enlist friends and family to help pick and crush. You may be able to get in on this in the Fall and ask some questions.

The winemaking itself is simple and the universities in California and the Pacific Northwest have publications you can download (and presumably some near to you, as well). There also are centuries of books, and online information, too, to help prevent and remedy, any possible problem that might arise (in my experience with West Coast fruit, problems are rare).

tl;dr: Totally doable; find a good source of local information, if you can, to get to the best quality from the start.


Great response Vohd. One thing to add is to realize you are doing it for the fun, there is so much high tech in commercial wine these days (and so much good cheap stuff) that there is no other strong reason.

I grew vinifera wine grapes for several years but they were a true pain to grow organically so I gave up.

There are some good wine grape forums out there, I used to follow one but forget the name now. Good place for info and ideas.

For the variety, I would call up double A vineyards and see what they recommend. They are in your state and know more than almost anyone. There are some newer varieties which may be better.

I live in WI, tough place to work with grapes, but a few places do very well, including Wollersheim winery. The bottom line (for me, and your mileage may certainly vary) is grapes are a LOT of work compared to what I wanted–it looked like a time sink. IIRC, expect about 1 gallon per plant, and if you have 4-5 gallons wine total, that’s 20-25 bottles you’re making in a year.

20 bottles sounds like a bunch, until you give your folks three, bring 2 out at a party, and send three to friends. Suddenly you’re down to a dozen bottles.

For ME, and again this is a deeply personal choice, I decided it wasn’t worth it. As mentioned, many places sell “juice pails” of pressed grape and even fruit juices, and I make a lot of wine from buying large packages of frozen blackberries, from crabapples, etc…cost on those bottles is relatively cheap (I doubt I’ve ever put $5 per bottle into a batch, including cork), the wine can still be extremely good, and I am not building a trellis, pruning, spraying, netting, fighting deer, etc…

I am not at all opposed to grape wine, but after I looked around, if I make grape wine (and I do at times) I buy the grapes and/or musts instead of trying to grow them. The initial buy-in in cash and labor struck me as prohibitive for 4-5 gallons, given I currently have like 26 gallons of assorted stuff in carboys anyway.

Thanks for all the info, its a lot to take in. I guess what I’m after isn’t really the wine, or even making the wine. I’m more excited just to grow the grapes, but everything you guys are saying makes sense, its basically too much work and money to grow grapes, fight off pests, any make your own wine… makes sense to me

For some reason I still want to try doing it. maybe I’m just want to do for the experience, or the challenge.

So today I bought 10 vines of Seyval Blanc, and 10 vines of Riesling. I’m diving in head first. ill keep you guys posted throughout the years with how well I’m doing, or how badly I’m failing


Go for it. I do a lot of things just because I want to. Bill

to be clear, I’m not saying not to do it. I’m saying my own calculus said it wasn’t something for ME. I know several folks here who have small wine arbors or trellises, and I am going to grow 4-5 table grapes, some of which may occasionally make it into wine as well.

That said, I decided for dedicated winemaking I can buy concords and fruits, I can scrounge crabapples and wild grapes and plums, etc., and I know several places to but grape juice and/or grapes if I get ambitious-- I wasn’t gaining enough personally to want to try the wine biz.

as a side note for anyone interested, one of the best wines I ever made was from picking about 4 gallons of wild crabs, adding just enough apple juice to cover them, and heating slowly until the skins burst (to better let yeast in) before cooling, adding pectic enzyme overnight, and then sulfating the following day and 24 hours later pitching with Cote de Blancs. Very pinot grigio-esque and light…

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I hope your vines have done well their first season! I don’t think grapes are all that hard to grow, depending on variety of course and where growing. But you’ll likely find varieties to do well where you are. Vines love growing and are beautiful! Growing grapes makes even less sense where I live but they make me happy – especially when they actually ripen. Mine are for juice, but wine is fun, too. I only made grape wine once but the results were a lot like cheap MD – not exactly what I had in mind so I stick with wild black cherry and blackberry wine. I prefer the grapes as juice, especially mixed with cider. I expect you’ll enjoy yours whatever you do with them.

Just bottled my Jerusalem artichoke/turmeric wine and grape/black current wine

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Forgot peach/banana wine.taste fantastic!

I have wild muscadine grapes all over my property I just use them. All I do is back my truck underneath the vines and let them drop in the bed of my truck

That is clever. I have grown Mascadin. Can it be grow in container? Does Muscadin make good wine?

I’ve never tried to grow it in a container it grows wild here. It makes excellent wine and jelly though

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Cool, I will put Muscadin in my this year’s scions wanted list

Seems a while since you visited how are the grapes growing ,#2 and did you also try any fruit wines?

Do not be put off by wineries fruit wines they do it in a style what costumers expect
(not dry but sweet like fruit juice with vodka added or something at least what i;'ve tried,(