A couple of years ago, a visitor to the Winery came up and said something to the effect of, “In the spring, all you talk about is pruning. If you’d just let the vines do their thing and grow where they want, you wouldn’t have to spend so much time pruning them!”

This statement deserves some attention and to make sense of the situation, we need to start with a look at vines that grow in the wild. Vitis riperia is the native local grape here in Iowa. They typically grow where their roots can be wet (alongside or near a stream) and where the vine can attach itself to a tree. It will grow up the tree in order to expose the flowers and grapes to sun and be “harvested” by birds. The bunches of small grapes can be 30–40 feet above the ground. It’s goal is to reproduce and this set of priorities is empowered by the proximity to a stream and also a tree with a good sunny exposure.

So, what about the parasite part? Native vines are dependent on the tree that they append themselves to. They don’t ask around. They just find a tree that is located close to a stream and start climbing.

We would not have many grapes to make wine from if we allowed grapevines to grow this way. So, we plant them under a trellis and train them to grow-up on the trellis. If the vines are trained, they will use the trellis to support themselves and grow so that the grapes are exposed to the sun while still being accessible to machines for harvesting. The result will be juicy grapes that can be made into excellent wine. Of course, the birds know that too so we have to fight off the birds to make sure that we will be able to harvest the grapes before the birds get them.