Tired of City Life, Thinking About Buying Acreage & Planting Vines; Varietals That Sell Grown In USDA Zone 6b


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So my wife and I are both professional photographers and we really would like some extra space with building a home studio.  So we are looking at properties that come with a barn and I would like to go full hog, get some decent acreage, and plant grape vines.  (I do realize that there is a decent amount of work with working grape vines, not to mention turning the juice into wine, which I have experience with.)  My question is what varietals would be marketable that can also survive zone 6b, which is just too cold for the vinifera varietals? 

(With that being said, global warming is turning Southeast PA into zone 7, just warm enough for vinifera, but farmers I have spoken to have not had great results with those varietals, albeit 20 years ago.  Maybe worth the risk? 🤨)  

I have been looking at Albarino, Chardonel, Kerner and Traminette for whites, and Baco Noir, Landot Noir, Blaufrankisch, Noiret and Norton for reds.

Which do people like; any others I should check into? 

Of course, the property still needs to be found along with various soil and fermentation tests.  Not to mention the 4 years of growth before getting a crop, which is the reason why I really want to nail this down.  Also, I have found that local wineries are, due to claimed environmental issues (but more then likely costs) do not age their wine in barrels, leading to sharper acids and tannins, so an opening in the PA market could be there.  In the wait time, I would produce barrel aged mead to fill the gap.  

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  • Kitchen changed the title to Tired of City Life, Thinking About Buying Acreage & Planting Vines; Varietals That Sell Grown In USDA Zone 6b
3 minutes ago, Fuzz said:

And don't forget to send free wine to Ken. He fully endorses "wine for comments"... :P

fuzz, there is no such thing as free wine. it is called work and it would receive a fair and unbiased review. 

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8 hours ago, Kitchen said:

 So we are looking at properties that come with a barn and I would like to go full hog, get some decent acreage, and plant grape vines.

Moving out in the country and getting some acreage is a wonderful idea--we went there twenty plus years ago and it has been incredible.

So do that and enjoy it--and plant what you want--and enjoy it....and forgive yourself if Mother Nature fails to obey your commands--She can be a bit obstreperous.

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A co-worker of mine has a vineyard in PA - https://www.1723vineyards.com/ That could give you an idea of what he and his wife are making.

Look at some of the wines that Barboursville Vineyards make.  They are VA's greatest vineyard.  Their Octagon is an American blue chip and I would venture to say VA's greatest wine.

I would consider doing a nerdy sought after style like a Solera  on NV wine as done in Rhone.  Can be bottled as needed.

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9 hours ago, Ken Gargett said:

the old saying about how do you make a small fortune is very true. start with a large one and buy a vineyard/winery.

i know that there are vineyards in all fifty US states so you should be able to find out what has been successful. i have no idea re your climate but climate change will undoubtedly suit some varieties in the coming years. i am assuming you are at the edge of a suitable climate for grapes due to cold. i'd check the latitude and see what grapes are grown in europe on that latitude and also in the southern hemisphere. 

of the ones you mention, really only albarino is anything like mainstream in world markets and that is a stretch (and you have to make certain it really is albarino - lot of places bought what they thought was and it has turned out otherwise). if you need it to be successful commercially then you are either going to have to set yourself up as the all-time star of the weird grapes or plant other varieties. i'd be thinking riesling, pinot noir and chardonnay for starters. 

good luck and please keep us posted.  

Yes.  How do you make a million in the wine industry?  Start with two million.  

Insofar as weather is concerned, it is a little more complicated then just latitude.  Europe has an ocean and sea the cold air from the north needs to travel over first, warming it up.  We have Canada; not exactly warming up any wind in the winter.  

I would love to grow Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, especially due to their versatility in how to process the grapes into wine, but fear one bad winter would kill the vines to the roots.  

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6 hours ago, Fuzz said:

And don't forget to send free wine to Ken. He fully endorses "wine for comments"... :P

and you need to ask @Ken Gargett if he drinks it straight or adds Strawberries to it  ;) 

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I'll offer my tasting service on the barrel aged meads.  Are you planning on keeping hives or just sourcing?

I know a couple Ozark coopers with very sustainable operations that would like to talk to your local wineries and take their money lol.

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8 minutes ago, therealrsr said:

I'll offer my tasting service on the barrel aged meads.  Are you planning on keeping hives or just sourcing?

I know a couple Ozark coopers with very sustainable operations that would like to talk to your local wineries and take their money lol.

Perhaps I would keep some bees, but mostly source.  

I have been looking into what is necessary to qualify for a farm assessment to save on property taxes.  Regulation vary from state to state, but all seem to require a two year period where you can show you made money from the land.  In PA it is at least $2000 per year, and in NJ it is only a $1000 per year.  Of course, with any type of deciduous fruit bearing plants, there downtime until you produce a harvest, not to mention all of the tests needed to perform before planting, so honey could be a good source of agricultural income.  Not to mention, organic home grown honey attracts all the yuppies and hipsters looking to burn money.  😉

Right now I have five different meads aging in barrels doing a test run.  Actually just pulled the first one out; it was aging in an Acacia (Black Locust) barrel.  About 11% made with spring wildflower honey and fermented with Champagne yeast.  Nice light crisp flavor.  

I am finding, when talking to people about it, that most flavored meads just will never develop a mass market.  Good for a glass here and there, but they are too strong in flavor for constant drinking.  By focusing on just using honey and barrels, you get something similar to wine.  Good flavors that is not over powering and can be enjoyed with a meal or throughout an evening.  That is what I would be focusing on.  

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If you have 90 mins to spare, this could be worth a look. City-dwelling professional photographer with no farming experience buys a farm and moves out with his wife. No grapes but lots of everything else, California fruit crops and livestock.

It is beautiful to look at, he was a wildlife photographer. Many aspects are somewhat "glossed over". For example, where he got the investment to get started and how income from the farm is going, that is, without tourist income, free labour from students and proceeds from this movie. It was free on Netflix but I think it's cheap enough still on Apple TV etc.

Both my parents come from farming families and I know quite a few farmers still. One of the things they all have in common is difficulty remembering when they last had a vacation.

But best of luck with how it goes.

 

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12 hours ago, Kitchen said:

So my wife and I are both professional photographers and we really would like some extra space with building a home studio.  So we are looking at properties that come with a barn and I would like to go full hog, get some decent acreage, and plant grape vines.  (I do realize that there is a decent amount of work with working grape vines, not to mention turning the juice into wine, which I have experience with.)  My question is what varietals would be marketable that can also survive zone 6b, which is just too cold for the vinifera varietals? 

(With that being said, global warming is turning Southeast PA into zone 7, just warm enough for vinifera, but farmers I have spoken to have not had great results with those varietals, albeit 20 years ago.  Maybe worth the risk? 🤨)  

I have been looking at Albarino, Chardonel, Kerner and Traminette for whites, and Baco Noir, Landot Noir, Blaufrankisch, Noiret and Norton for reds.

Which do people like; any others I should check into? 

Of course, the property still needs to be found along with various soil and fermentation tests.  Not to mention the 4 years of growth before getting a crop, which is the reason why I really want to nail this down.  Also, I have found that local wineries are, due to claimed environmental issues (but more then likely costs) do not age their wine in barrels, leading to sharper acids and tannins, so an opening in the PA market could be there.  In the wait time, I would produce barrel aged mead to fill the gap.  

How are the local vineyards holding up in relation the spotted lanternfly situation?

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3 hours ago, captaincaveman said:

How are the local vineyards holding up in relation the spotted lanternfly situation?

Not sure, but the vineyards I have been visiting all appear to be healthy and growing well, except for one but I feel like that was the fault of the owner and a poor trellis system being employed.  

I can only speak to my own experience with them.  Last year they were all over, like everywhere.  I hike and bike a lot, and I could not go a few steps without seeing a dozen.  This year I have only seen a few of them all together.  There are traps on trees all over the place and many are cutting down the Tree of Heaven, which they prefer to lay their eggs on.

4 hours ago, Ryan said:

If you have 90 mins to spare, this could be worth a look. City-dwelling professional photographer with no farming experience buys a farm and moves out with his wife. No grapes but lots of everything else, California fruit crops and livestock.

It is beautiful to look at, he was a wildlife photographer. Many aspects are somewhat "glossed over". For example, where he got the investment to get started and how income from the farm is going, that is, without tourist income, free labour from students and proceeds from this movie. It was free on Netflix but I think it's cheap enough still on Apple TV etc.

Both my parents come from farming families and I know quite a few farmers still. One of the things they all have in common is difficulty remembering when they last had a vacation.

But best of luck with how it goes.

 

Thanks, although it seems a little over the top insofar as dramatizing the storyline and going for the environmental activist crowd on organic farming.  Not that I have anything against organic farming and wine making ... except for when you loose your entire crop due to a fungus or bug you could have sprayed for or when your entire lot of wine turns into vinegar because you don't like sulfites.  

Recently, I have been watching the more "exciting" videos on farming, such as checking for good internal water drainage down to 4 feet or trying to figure out the best trellis design based on varietal, local weather and how much heat your land retains or (the 2 hour long video on) root stocks.  It is amazing the depth some of these topics can reach.  I can remember when I started making wine I thought I knew what tannins are, and then listened to a two hour podcast on just tannins.  Unless you make wine, you have no idea what tannins are.  Same thing with barrels; the options on how to have a barrel made are limitless and can make your head spin.  

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2 hours ago, Kitchen said:

Perhaps I would keep some bees, but mostly source.  

I have been looking into what is necessary to qualify for a farm assessment to save on property taxes.  Regulation vary from state to state, but all seem to require a two year period where you can show you made money from the land.  In PA it is at least $2000 per year, and in NJ it is only a $1000 per year.  Of course, with any type of deciduous fruit bearing plants, there downtime until you produce a harvest, not to mention all of the tests needed to perform before planting, so honey could be a good source of agricultural income.  Not to mention, organic home grown honey attracts all the yuppies and hipsters looking to burn money.  😉

Right now I have five different meads aging in barrels doing a test run.  Actually just pulled the first one out; it was aging in an Acacia (Black Locust) barrel.  About 11% made with spring wildflower honey and fermented with Champagne yeast.  Nice light crisp flavor.  

I am finding, when talking to people about it, that most flavored meads just will never develop a mass market.  Good for a glass here and there, but they are too strong in flavor for constant drinking.  By focusing on just using honey and barrels, you get something similar to wine.  Good flavors that is not over powering and can be enjoyed with a meal or throughout an evening.  That is what I would be focusing on.  

11% sounds right to my taste for a mead, the champagne yeast had not conked out at that point so I imagine it left a touch of honey flavor.  Do you recall your original and final gravities?  Around here any mead in general has a tough time finding a consistent market vs. cider for example.  I have done cyser (apple/honey mix) before and bottled still for a very enjoyable bottle to share, but then not likely to drink again for a bit to your point.  I have tried natural fermentation with mead, perry and cider, several good but I don't care for the sulfur and a couple batches turned into pretty expensive vinegar so now I always use champagne or pacman yeast.

Bee keeping is awesome for so many reasons.  Put in a small orchard, drop your hive(s) in the middle and reap the rewards.  Missouri is heavy in clover honey production so when I get some orchard or flower garden honey I can definitely taste the improvement.

I get 5 gallon charred white oak barrels out of the ozarks, distill and age some hooch (unlike most states it is legal in MO) then use them a couple times to finish beers, ciders, etc.

Jealous!

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19 minutes ago, therealrsr said:

11% sounds right to my taste for a mead, the champagne yeast had not conked out at that point so I imagine it left a touch of honey flavor.  Do you recall your original and final gravities?  Around here any mead in general has a tough time finding a consistent market vs. cider for example.  I have done cyser (apple/honey mix) before and bottled still for a very enjoyable bottle to share, but then not likely to drink again for a bit to your point.  I have tried natural fermentation with mead, perry and cider, several good but I don't care for the sulfur and a couple batches turned into pretty expensive vinegar so now I always use champagne or pacman yeast.

Bee keeping is awesome for so many reasons.  Put in a small orchard, drop your hive(s) in the middle and reap the rewards.  Missouri is heavy in clover honey production so when I get some orchard or flower garden honey I can definitely taste the improvement.

I get 5 gallon charred white oak barrels out of the ozarks, distill and age some hooch (unlike most states it is legal in MO) then use them a couple times to finish beers, ciders, etc.

Jealous!

For that mead, my starting was 1.084 and final is 0.996.  It has a very nice lighter flavor with a flowery bouquet, a touch of Acacia wood flavor, and a PH of 3.15 for a nice crispness.  The terroir of the honey from the apiary I source my spring honey from gives an apple, pear and apricot taste, so it is actually quite nice.  It has only been 6 months though, so the flavor of fermentation has not completely evaporated away yet.  

The other four I am experimenting with are a fuller bodied mead made with spring and fall wildflower honeys, an Acerglyn made with fall and buckwheat honeys and fall Maple syrups, a Bochet with 4 different cook times on the honey, and a Sour Cherry Mead employing malolactic conversion.  All different yeasts in all five, which I specifically picked based on the flavor and how I would be fermenting them, albeit I only use Lalvin yeasts.  Specifically I like to use EC-1118, D-47, D-254, RC-212, 71B, BM 4x4 and QA-23, all with very different properties and flavor profiles.  

Three of them I barrel fermented and then Sur Lee aged as well, which is a risk since you need to have a flawless fermentation and perform the batonnage everyday during fermentation and then every 2 to 3 days for 6 weeks afterwards, otherwise you can get reductive flaws in the wine.  

In order to make sure fermentation achieves a 99.999% attenuation, I do employ micro-oxidation prior to pitching.  Even with a must at 1.112 and a yeast that maxes out between 14% and 16%, I have gotten the final gravity down to ~0.995 in under a week.  So, if you ever have issues with fermenting your meads dry, I would highly recommend micro-oxidation.  

There is a local cooper in PA I worked with on sourcing my barrels, and they all are made slightly different.  Working directly with a cooper is so much better then just ordering a barrel through a website.  One is Acacia, two are Romanian Oak, One American Oak, and one is an hybrid with an Acacia shell and Romanian Oak heads.  I got all 12 gallon barrels this time around, although he does produce all the way up to 132 gallon Puncheons.  Size of the barrel in an actual production is a whole other conversation though.  I would probably use Puncheons and Piece size barrels if I ever got into this commercially.  

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I would suggest, if you plan to make meads to sell, to have a broader spectrum of meads and not just dry ones. All the meads I tasted in the US were dry and fairly delicate, around 11-12%, several of them did not have an obvious honey note. On the other hand full bodied meads, around 15-16%, sweet without being cloying and with a powerful honey note, are almost impossible to find here even though they are very common in Eastern Europe where there is a strong mead culture.

By offering both styles of mead you could definitely set yourself apart from all the other mead producers. Plus, from my personal experience serving mead to friends and family, I found that the majority did prefer the full bodied ones because they are most distinctive compared to say wine. I myself mostly brew Dwójniak style mead because it's my favorite and I think my final gravity is close to your initial gravity 😂

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Very cool and impressed with your depth of fermentation knowledge.  Due to my taste preference I stick to mostly ales and lagers and thankful for that after your post reminded me how much more difficult wine can be yo make.  Best of luck with your endeavor, and still jealous.

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27 minutes ago, therealrsr said:

Very cool and impressed with your depth of fermentation knowledge.  Due to my taste preference I stick to mostly ales and lagers and thankful for that after your post reminded me how much more difficult wine can be yo make.  Best of luck with your endeavor, and still jealous.

To be honest, I have the same feelings about beer.  Being sterile enough to make sure the beer does not get infected is such an annoying part about the process, along with all of the boiling.  Which is why I gave up beer making for wine making.  

With wine, sure, you need to be sterile, but only to a point.  Wine has too much acid and alcohol to be a good environment for bacteria, not to mention there are no sugars for the bacteria to eat.  You only need to worry about acetobactia, which is easy to control for with sulfites.  Beer, though, likes to get infected.  

I often wonder how people barrel age beer actually.  You cant fully sterilize a barrel, even if you have a commercial steamer, and the amount of sulfites you would need to keep beer fresh at it's PH in the barrel would ruin the flavor.  With wine, due to the above qualities, it is just not an issue. 

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11 hours ago, Kitchen said:

Yes.  How do you make a million in the wine industry?  Start with two million.  

Insofar as weather is concerned, it is a little more complicated then just latitude.  Europe has an ocean and sea the cold air from the north needs to travel over first, warming it up.  We have Canada; not exactly warming up any wind in the winter.  

I would love to grow Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, especially due to their versatility in how to process the grapes into wine, but fear one bad winter would kill the vines to the roots.  

every place will be different for sure. it would have to be incredibly cold to kill your vines though it might destroy your harvest. you might also be able to find some warmer micro-climates in your search with some south facing slopes. if making wines is the major focus of this venture then it might take you a long time to find the ideal site. if it is just a side hobby then find the place that most appeals and hope it works. 

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23 hours ago, Kitchen said:

Also, I have found that local wineries are, due to claimed environmental issues (but more then likely costs) do not age their wine in barrels, leading to sharper acids and tannins, so an opening in the PA market could be there.

If you’re interested in well-oaked PA wine try Va La in Avondale near Kennett Square, could give you an idea of possibilities. It’s the best PA wine IME.  

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That's funny I feel the exact same way about wine, the boil gives me comfort and starsan is my friend.  "Don't fear the foam"

Hooch is a fine and cheap barrel wash lol.  There is always a risk but I throw 110 to 120ish proof in there for aging and then control exposure prior to the  fill.  I have the beer waiting and it is often an imperial ABV.  I feel the beer has to have some bite and residual sweet to really benefit from the barrel.

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