Monthly Archives: July 2009

Vineyard Costs

Many folks ask what does it cost to put in a small vineyard and make a good bottle of wine. It is a very difficult question as the biggest item in the equation in California is the land cost. You can have land come with your house as we did or you can buy raw land for about $75-100K/acre. The other big item we found is consultation and coordination of the activities. Consultants will either quote you a flat fee or around $100-150/hr. This ends up being a big portion of the small vineyard cost….I’m not going to list this as we are not done yet, but figure 15-20% of the total project.

I think the easiest way to talk about small vineyards is cost per vine. This will give you an idea if you want to pursue this dream/lifestyle.

Items Cost/vine
Dormant Vines $3.50
Amendments $1.25
Tilling $0.50
Posts/Wire $3.50
Irrigation Materials $1.65
Labor to Install $2.00
Gopher control $1.40

Sub Total $13.80
Consultant (17.5%) $ 2.42

Total $16.22

Yearly maintenance will run between $2-3/vine depending on if you are organic or conventionally farmed and the row spacing. Narrow row spacing, ie. below 6’, will cost more. If you do most of the work yourself, like the folks at Emtu, you can reduce this substantially. However, you will need to buy a tractor and a few more tools.

What you get….

For Pinot you get about 3.5 lbs/plant, or enough for a bottle of wine when the plants are mature in about 6 years. Chardonnay is about twice as much. If you sell the grapes, you can get about $2500-$4000/ton for Pinot.

Not a great financial return……will probably take about 10-12 years to make back your investment, but you are living a dream.

Gophers and Bees

They should name the county animal the gopher. They are everywhere in Sonoma County. They love to eat tender roots, especially grapes that have just been planted. At least 3 times we have heard of people planting a vineyard and in the first year they lose 1/4 to 1/3 of the vines to gophers. Very expensive. We are going to try and stop them early by putting in a gopher cage around our entire vineyard and garden area. Yes, 1.5 acres. You may think this is crazy but we are hoping it will give us peace of mind and make it easier to control them in the future. Basically we will dig down 3 feet, bury 1/2” square gopher wire that is 4’ tall and attach the top to the fence. After the vines are established, the gophers are not much of a problem.

Bees…….most of the time we love bees. They do all sorts of good things for the land and we try and leave them alone. Yellow jackets are not my favorite, but Karina tells me that they also do very good things. However, when the yellow jackets make their nest in the ground near the house they are a problem. Back a few weeks ago when I rented the John Deere 310 to take out the fence posts and stumps, I hit a yellow jacket’s nest that was near the house. Joey said it was funny, but I jumped off the tractor and ran around for about a minute to get rid of them as they were chasing me. I got stung about 10 times. Linda told me the best remedy is to put a paste of baking soda on the bite and the sting and itch will go away.
Oh,,,,,I asked Dane how to get rid of them and he said he had heard of water. After an hour on the web, I saw that people poured boiling water on the nests. I can tell you that this is the easiest and best remedy. It kills them on contact so when you pour it on them you don’t have to run and it doesn’t cost any money or pollute the environment. Took me about 6 trips to the kitchen over two days, but it seems like they are gone now. We will see in a few days when they till the land.

John Deere 310!!! Land Clearing

rented tractorOh what fun it is to demolish and tear up things with a big tractor. I was going to rent a much smaller backhoe, but it was broken and they convinced me to rent a large John Deere 310. They said it was an $80,000 tractor. The rental place is about 3 miles from the house, so I drove it home during rush hour through town one night and returned it the next night. During the 24 hours we rented it we took out 20 fence posts with concrete (see above) with ease and 12 tree stumps and leveled the land before we till the land in August. Oh……I forgot to mention that I also hit a yellow jacket’s nest. They live in the ground in case you didn’t know. I ended up with about 10 bee stings. Funny thing was I took a benadryl right after it happened……should not have operated heavy equipment after, but it all worked out in the end.

As you can see from the pictures below, the landscape has changed a lot from when we moved in outside the family room. We had grass, trees, bushes and a fence. Now it is empty, but will soon be filled with a vineyard.

Summer diversion – Xavier Visits

xavier mowerAfter our Summer Solstice, our first grandchild Xavier, stayed an extra 2 weeks. He is 6… you would think that the two of us could keep him entertained easily, but it took all of our energy to keep up with him. As you can see from the pictures below, he liked whipped cream, much to the consternation of his parents. We also made a trip to a goat farm, enrolled him in swim lessons, visited the library, went to the Humane Society, took tennis lessons with Uncle Dave, studied math every morning, and played with his cousins and our 6 year old neighbor, Grace. We also had a wild chicken visit us for 10 days of his visit.Xavier summer pancake xavier goat