If you are dreaming of starting your own vineyard, one of the best resources you can have is advice and insights from others about their vineyard start-up journeys and what they have learned in the early years of being vineyard owners. Three of our vineyard consulting clients share their tips, recommendations, and lessons learned for anyone dreaming about starting a vineyard.
Craig Little is a working doctor who started the award-winning Stone Ashe Vineyards and Winery in Hendersonville, NC with his wife and family in 2013. He currently has 17 acres of vines from first year planting all the way through year six.
Stone Ashe Vineyards: https://www.stoneashevineyards.com/
Daniel and Kristina Limoges left their corporate careers to start their breathtaking Limoges Cellars in Cleveland, GA. They purchased their land in 2020 and put their first vines in the ground in 2021. In 2022, they added another 3 acres and began construction on their tasting room.
Limoges Cellars: https://limogescellars.com
Married for 38 years, John and Rebecca Greenan met in law school. Now both retired, Rebecca worked mostly as an educator in law school administration and John worked mostly as a real estate developer doing affordable housing. The couple started Las Huertas de Tejas Vineyard in Clairette, TX in 2021 and are excited for their first crop in 2023.
Las Huertas de Tejas Vineyard: https://lashuertasdetejas.com/ (website coming soon)
- Have as much training and education as possible before starting. Don’t go in blind. Take advantage of courses, resources, and hands-on opportunities to learn and educate yourself on what’s involved from the start, so you can prepare and plan accordingly.
- Be okay with delayed gratification. It’s a long-term play for anybody out there. It’s not like corn or soybeans where you can just put it in the ground, and then reap all the benefits that season. But if you will wait and do it correctly, it will be well worth it.
- Hire the right people. Get a surveyor to make sure that your in-line posts are lined up the way that you want. Consider hiring an experienced vineyard consultant too. This will be money well-spent that will make your life much easier.
- Do a business plan. If it’s in your head and it’s a thought, then it’s just a dream. But once you write it down, it’s a goal. And once there’s a goal, then you’ve got a timeframe and action steps to take. A business plan sets you up for success with your vineyard.
- Prepare for all vineyard pests. It is important not just to prepare for expected pests like deer, but also for the less expected pests like foxes and yellow jackets that can also destroy your crop.
- Increase your contingency budget. Take whatever you think your cost is going to be and double or triple it. Factor in the land value and all the infrastructure. Land clearing and lumber, for example, are a lot more expensive than you actually think, and the costs quickly creep up.
- Site selection is key. Learn the critical points and what you need to look for on your site. For example, a good site can save your crops from early and late season freezes with proper elevation and slope.
- Don’t plan to travel. When you own a vineyard, especially a young vineyard, you are committed to being onsite for the entire growing season, so spring, summer, and fall vacations are not an option unless you have a full time, experienced, and trustworthy vineyard manager onsite.
- Plan for scalability. If you can, try to buy enough land to scale up your vineyard over time because there are a lot of fixed costs, like a barn, tractor, etc., so spreading these fixed costs across more acres improves your cost per acre and your ability to make money.
- Plan for your crop. Growing grapes is only one part of the equation. Vineyard owners have to also plan and prepare to either make wine, contract with another vineyard to have wine made, or find someone who wants to purchase your grapes.
If you want to learn more about growing a vineyard, check out www.vineyardundergroundpodcast.com/vu008.