The path to harvesting grapes and making quality wine begins long before the wine is actually bottled for tasting and enjoyment.
This past May, about 3,300 new vines were planted at three of the four Tassel Ridge® Winery vineyards—Maple Woods, Newport, and Tassel Ridge. With the planting completed, the four vineyards now include a total of approximately 41,000 vines on 72 acres, consisting of seven red and five white wine grape varieties.
In order for these new vines to be planted, preparation began a year earlier in May 2016. Adam Nunnikhoven, Vineyard Manager, explained it started with the ground being tilled up and then grass was seeded during the summer. At the Tassel Ridge Vineyard, in September 2016, surveyors determined with a GPS system where each post needed to go, so that they were evenly spaced—24 feet between each post and 10 feet between each row. At the Newport Vineyard, existing plants were pulled out and replaced. The Maple Woods Vineyard was adjacent to an existing vineyard and was able to be measured for locations of the posts and plants.
By the end of September, approximately 1,200 new posts were pounded into the ground with a post pounder at the three vineyards. Adam then sprayed pre- and post-emergent herbicide under the new rows to kill the weeds.
Planting preparation continued in May 2017. To ensure the vines were planted in straight rows, orange dots were marked in the ground. One person went down the rows with an auger and made holes for each of the vines to be placed in. Each hole was about nine inches wide and one foot deep.
After the holes were made, another person followed and placed each vine root in the ground and then covered it up with dirt. As each row was planted, there was a check to make sure the vines were lined up straight with the posts. The reason for this is because plants that are not in the center of the row may become victim to the tractor, the vineyard sprayer, or the mechanical pruner.
The bareroot cuttings came in bundles of 25, with 250 in a box. Once the vines were in the ground, wires were attached to the poles. To help the vines to grow properly, pencil rods and grow tubes were installed on each vine.
In the Tassel Ridge Vineyard, the wine grape varieties of Petite Pearl and Brianna were planted. Petite Pearl is a new variety for production. At the Maple Woods Vineyard, Brianna and St. Pepin were planted, while at the Newport Vineyard the variety was Foch.
New this year is a test plot located by the Winery. Two experimental varieties called Itasca and Verona were planted. Itasca is a new cold-hardy white wine grape which was developed at the University of Minnesota. Verona is a red variety which was developed by Tom Plochard from Hugo, Minnesota. This is the first year both varieties were available for commercial wine growers to try. A total of 51 Itasca and 63 Verona vines were planted at the new Winery test plot.
While it takes a lot of preparation and a lot of effort to have each vine planted and nurtured, it also takes a lot of time. It will be approximately three years before any of these grapes can be harvested to make quality wine.
A view of established vines on an early May morning.