Building a Vineyard on dreams and sweat- Part 2


A few weeks ago I wrote about my friend Nicole Dietman, a budding viticulturist, and the new vineyard she is building on her property in Buffalo, MN. The back-breaking work of digging holes for the trellis system was done in April. Then came the hard, dirty work of actually planting 300 vines in the soil.

This mass planting occured in mid-May, once again Nicole and her husband Jeff were aided by multiple family members, myself and one other member of our Wine Professionals class. Nicole’s plan was to plant three grape varietals able to withstand the cold winters in Minnesota; Marquette, La Crescent and Frontenac. Each vine was purchased as root stock or in a 4″ nursery pot, and each hole for the vines was dug by hand to a depth of approximately 18 inches and a bamboo stake was stuck in the hole to be part of the final trellis system which will support the vines as they grow. The holes were filled with water, the plant was inserted in and the hole was filled in with dirt. As a last step, each vine was covered and supported by a plastic tube, dropped over the bamboo stake, that acts as a guide for the vine to grow on, as well as a partial shade against the hot sun.

This vine in the photo is a Marquette vine being planted by Nicole’s mother in law.

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Nicole helps drop the grow tube around the vine, making sure all the leaves are inside. The dirt is then mounded around the tube to help support it.

A close up of the grow tube being placed over a Marquette vine.

Multiple rows of planted vines are done!

The weather was exceptionally beautiful the day we were out in the vineyard, and there were enough hands to make the work go swiftly and smoothly. Several people crawled along the ground planting the vines, as others stood to drop the grow tubes over the bamboo stake when the vine was ready to be covered. One person, using a small rototiller, dug up the soil next to each planting hole so there would be enough dirt to fill in each spot, and then there was the water. Hoses were dragged around the whole vineyard to supply the adequate amount of water needed for each vine. Working together, the entire 300 plants were in the ground by mid-afternoon. It wasn’t anywhere near as taxing as dropping in each 8-foot 4×4 pole like we did back in April, but the work, once done, gave us immense satisfaction. There is just something about finishing that type of massive accomplishment that left everyone smiling from ear to ear.
The trellis system has now been built too. Each 8-foot tall pole, and each bamboo stake that was planted along with the vine, provide the structure needed for the wire that is strung along them that will support the vines as they grow. The vines grow up the wires, and can branch out to the sides as they mature.
Each Marquette vine stood about 3-4″ tall in their pots when they went into the ground in May. Here are the vines two months later, growing tall along the wire trellis system. The plastic grow tube is 24″ tall and the second wire on the trellis stands at 4 1/2 feet.

Nicole has been very fortunate that the weather has cooperated with her new vineyard, as she has only had to water them once since they were planted. There has been plenty of heat this summer to really urge them along. She even discovered a tiny cluster of grapes that had formed on one vine, and tells me “It was heartbreaking to have to prune it off.” At this point, all the energy needs to be focused on growing, expanding and nurturing the plant so that when it is time for grapes to come along, the plant will have enough of what it needs to provide for their maturation. Right now is simply too early. Right now, they just need to grow.
Someday, this whole area in the photo below will be lush and green with mature grape vines, and in the not to distant future, a winery will be born selling unique artisan wines made from true Minnesota varietal grapes.

Someday, I will have the pleasure of sampling a bottle of wine that was grown, pressed, fermented, bottled and labeled here in Minnesota, and somewhere in that bottle will be the deep satisfaction of being a part of the process; a few drops of sweat in the dirt, and a handprint on a scoop of earth pressed in around a tiny vine that holds in its leaves a multitude of hopes and dreams.

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Reader Comments

What a wonderful story! Something I would love to do but at my age…let’s not dicuss that. Congrats to Nicole, YOU and all who helped. It’s hard to believe it will be 10 years before a harvest but what a great time it will be then. And what satisfaction watching it grow along with her new baby! I hope you will be there to continue the story!