In the world of viticulture you can, and should, do all your research before putting a shovel in the ground to plant your first grapevine. No matter how much research you do, however, if your grapevines will grow and flourish for many years will have a lot to do with what Mother Nature sends your way. In a past blog, I wrote about a failed variety in my home vineyard known as Prinzipal. Prinzipal is a German hybrid of Riesling that was bred to be more cold-resistant and to be more productive than its parent. Being in the Hudson Valley, far from large bodies of temperature moderating water like the Hudson River, Great Lakes, and Finger Lakes; where most commercial vineyards are in New York, I am forced to plant only what has significant cold tolerance. I gave Prinzipal a try and the plant seemed to be growing well. The winter of 2013-2014, one of the coldest on record in the Northeast, provided for the beginning of the end of this variety in my home vineyard. That following growing season, which was to have been the variety's first production year, ended up being a season of 80% loss of the variety and the balance was stunted due to trunk failure. Prinzipal was pulled out last fall.
The winter of 2014-2015, another one of the coldest on record in the Northeast, provided for a few more losses in my home vineyard. This time with the losses of some of my Neptune seedless table grapes. Even though I did my best to hill up all my grapevines above their graft union, and their was plenty of snow cover above that, these vines also suffered trunk failure and in one case the cold actually split the trunk. Another variety that hasn't proven cold-hardy enough for my location. So what do I do? Do I just throw up my hands and say forget this? Of course not. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.
So what did I do? In the case of the Prinzipal replacements, there was the lure of looking at some new white wine varieties. The more research I did on each one, however, the more I dropped off the list. Each variety had issues with either maturing too late, requiring a longer growing season than I could provide, and/or had very small tight clusters that were highly subject to bunch rot. No thanks. I decided to plant more of what I know has worked. A grapevine that has made it through the past two winters mostly unscathed and one that produces clean and delicious fruit that is highly versatile in my home winemaking. Vidal Blanc won out the selection process.
The new, grafted on 5C root stock, vines arrived in late April. They were put in a bucket of water overnight and my planting crew was made ready for the back-breaking planting process that would occur the next morning. Well in my home vineyard, the planting crew ended up being my eighteen-year-old son. I am very thankful to have two strong sons that, although may not have my passion for wine growing and winemaking, they do love their dad. They are there for me when I need them. So my son dug the holes for the replacement vines and I did the planting and watering. We then worked together to stake them and install the grow tubes....