Sunday, March 15, 2009

Winery Placement

Those darned seedlings still haven't sprouted, and I've decided to put a heating mat under them to raise their temp to a good 80 degrees or so. That'll show 'em!

Consequentially, you get another winery entry. Placement is a big issue, as you have to pick a region that grows the grapes you want to make into wine, pick a community that you want to spend the rest of your life in, and pick a specific spot that will net you the most profit.

For many people, these criteria would lead them west to the winery powerhouses of California, Oregon, and Washington. In my case, a combination of a Midwesterner's distrust of the west coast and a desire to not migrate *too* far from my home state of Ohio has led me to decide that my winery must be east of the Mississippi. It's a fine balancing act, though.

I've narrowed my search down to five states: Ohio, New York, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina.

I've chosen Ohio as an "easy" option. My and my brother's family, as well as our two wives' families all live in Ohio, which is a significant resource base. In addition, the land is cheap. However, the wines that come out of Ohio are often weak and limited in variety, and there aren't many wineries.

New York is another easy one. It is the best wine state east of the Mississippi, and the third or fourth best overall. It has a lot of wineries, high-quality wine, and a good variety of wine varieties. My wife and I have been to the Finger Lakes several times, and love the Ithaca area. Problem is, it's cold, and the land costs are above average.

The next three aren't quite as easy. Maryland and Virginia are both warmer than Ohio, and have an average selection of wineries, average wines, and average variety. However, the land cost is astronomical.

North Carolina is the last option, though it's the weakest of the five. North Carolina produces somewhat sad wines, has the smallest variety of the bunch, and the smallest number of wineries. However, the land cost is average, it's warm, and we have extended family that have weak ties there.

This being said, the location we pick is likely to be an area I haven't even thought of at this point, as we're nowhere near the capital necessary to start this venture. Maybe by the time we set out, global warming will have made Delaware the perfect winemaking state. Who knows?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Winery Dreams

While we're waiting on the seeds planted Sunday to sprout (and thus give me a useful picture to post), let me take time to share with you my ultimate goal. Simply put, I dream of combining my love of horticulture and my love of wine into the ownership of a winery/vineyard east of the Mississippi. To this end, I've been researching incessantly for over three years. From alcohol-related bureaucracy to the most cost efficient tractor for a vineyard, I've been poring over everything I can get my hands on.

Most resources I've found say that starting a winery under romantic notions is an awful idea, and that it should be approached with a clear head and as a solid business venture. Despite this, the draw of country living, doing something with tradition and history attached to it, making my own hours, being close to home to help raise my children, making a living by at least partly working with plants, and participating in the blend of art and science that is winemaking really stimulates something powerful and elemental in my gut.

However, I'm always grounded again when it comes to figuring out the cost of this dream. Even if I started with just a vineyard, the cost to buy ten acres, plow it, plant it, install the hardware and bring it to fruition is well over two hundred thousand dollars. My current means will not provide me this level of disposable income for tens of years, let alone the three to five million bucks it'd take to do it perfectly as I'd want it. Enter: funding.

Funding comes in two forms. The first involves involving my brother in the process. This is an extremely good idea anyways, as he's a very good people person, a better manager/leader, a solid guy, shares my love of wine and dream of winemaking, has this insane luckiness about him, and with his doctor wife, doing much better financially than I. This is difficult in the short term, as he's tied heavily to his current location due to work and family issues, and just had a kid in January. The second form involves, well, let's give it a fancy name and call it the Hand of God. Whether it involves winning that free house on HGTV, winning the lottery, or finding an investor who is willing to wait five to seven years before seeing a profit, this is difficult both in the short and long term, because it relies on fate or luck, two things I'm not so good at influencing.

I suppose my best bet at influencing the funding issue is to make this blog so popular that people scream to sponsor me. So...uh, invite your friends! And uh, a free bottle of wine to blog followers once I get set up! Yeah, that's the ticket.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

And so it begins (again)

Today's seed-planting day in the Borage for Courage household, as the seeds have been soaking in wet paper towel for the requisite twenty-four hours. I was good and ended up under 15 dollars for seeds this year. However, as I mentioned, I will be leaning more heavily on nursery plants, so that'll be a cost down the road. As you can see from the picture, this year I'm growing one German Red Strawberry, two Chapmans, two Brandywines, one tomatillo, one Sungold, one Gardener's Delight, one Matina, one Kellogg's Breakfast, and one Green Zebra in the tomato category. For the peppers, we have Joe E Parker, two Fish peppers, a Mirasol, and an Ancho. For eggplants, there's two Rossa Biancas. In miscellaneous stuff, I'm growing three flatleaf Italian parsleys this year, because frankly, I can't find a single use where my typical crinkleleaf parsley is better. Can you? I know now that Stevia from seed is nigh impossible, but I had a couple dozen leftover seeds from when I was unaware, so I figured I'd give it one last go. And I'm going to try my hand again at growing Salad Burnet, because bizarre salad enhancements amuse me.

This garden is looking more and more like a gallery of past years' failures. Chapman and German Red Strawberry tomatoes, as well as Joe E Parker and Fish peppers died when I forgot to water the seedlings last year during a bout of the flu. Rossa Bianca was grown in horrible conditions two years ago, and couldn't manage to produce anything of edible size by the end of the season. The Stevia put up a feeble millimeter-wide set of primary leaves last year, then just fell over and died. So I'm probably dooming myself from the start. But doesn't doom make for the best blogging?