So this year, I decided I'm going to try to grow grapes for possible booze making. Obviously the biggest factor in winemaking is terroir. Virginia's history of winemaking was all failures until the 70's. Prior to that, Phylloxera crushed any attempts to grow Vinifera here.
The odds are stacked against me here:
-Drainage isn't ideal.
-VA humidity is a real bastard and can cause rot.
With that in mind, I figured I'd try three varieties: Regent, Vidal Blanc, and Cowart, a muscadine.
Regent is a German hybrid grape (Vinifera crossed with American species for better disease resistance). They crossed Chambourcin with another grape. It's getting popular in Germany, acts more like Vinifera than American grapes and has a tendency to develop high sugar contents and high tannins (the kind of reds I prefer are big bold heavy full bodied ones [Zin, Cab, Petite Verdot]). I think it might be growable as it has extremely good resistance, requiring minimal spraying, stands cold weather well. Generally it's been grown in cooler climates, I'm crossing my fingers it can do something good here in the dirty south.
Vidal blanc. It's another hybrid variety and a white grape that everyone seems to grow everywhere. Seems like it's been grown in Missouri to Canada where it makes ice wines with lots of citrus and pineapple. If I could approximate something like a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (which probably won't happen what with our hot temps... the finer acid notes will likely be 'cooked' out by the afternoon sun) or a Riesling, I'd be overjoyed. I tried a Horton Vineyards Vidal blanc and the acidity took me aback at first but then became enjoyable.
Cowart Muscadine grapes. Muscadines are native here in the south, so you have to figure if it survived so well without any human intervention for this long, maybe there'll be something good to happen with a carefully bred cultivar. I'm sort of thinking of this muscadine as my abused child who would normally live under the stairs and will have to learn to fend for itself. If it dies, I'm not going to be soul-crushed, if it just becomes a weed and I get a few snacking grapes out of it, that'd be fun too. In my research into muscadines, I was actually more excited about varieties like Noble and Black Beauty, but shipping one dormant vine would have cost me $30 whereas I saw this Cowart vine at a garden center, already one or two seasons old for $25.
They've all been planted along a fence that receives several hours of afternoon sun during the day. The buds have broken on the Regent vine which seems like it's just ready and raring to take off and grow like a bastard... one day you see tiny buds, the next there's tiny leaves. The Cowart seems to be coming out of dormancy a bit more slowly but surely, now with a dozen small leaves that need to be trimmed so I can begin to develop it along a trellis. The Vidal Blanc is just sitting there, no buds breaking, just looking like a really sad expensive twig in my backyard.
More to come, hopefully.