Notes on a Videocast about Mermaid Hill Vineyards; and Our Attempt to grow Grapes at Sunny Woodlands Farm

Let there be wine!

I’m listening to the NOFA-NH Zoom presentation about Mermaid Hill Vineyards‘ methods, and something they say about leaving certain native wildflowers in place when they weed, and not leaving areas bare reminds me of my own “selective weeding” practices.

We’d love to have a small vineyard area

We tried planting some grapes 2-3 years ago (just enough for our family). It was on a south-west-facing slope with, as it turned out, giant rocks in the soil. Those two Springs in a row were incredibly wet, with water draining down the slope mostly under the topsoil, and pooling in the holes we dug for the vines. We didn’t have enough fill handy to replace the volume of large rocks removed, and then as the months went on, not enough time or mulch to keep the weeds away from the small vines.

 So when I read about this Zoom presentation, I was interested, because we need to re-start that project from scratch. 

I took some notes on Mermaid Hill Vinyard’s presentation:

* They are using biodynamic methods, transitioning to organic
   * Copper and Sulphur are the only things sprayed on the plants
   * Natural pest control:
      * nettle, horsetail,
      * experimenting with yarrow, elder buckthorn, dandelion tea

* They don’t prune off the lead section of the vine. The hybrids they grow, grow a lot, and they let them grow where they want during the growing season.

* They start pruning in February, cut 80-90% of the growth.

* Rebuilding the environment for the grape vines:
   * It was a dustbowl when they first got there, no cover on the soil
   * They try to mimic forests, riverbanks
   * Species to plant in the understory (of the grape vines): vetch, clover, deep-rooted plants
   * Species growing naturally in the understory: Queen Ann’s Lace and Goldenrod
   * They remove thistles from the understory
   * They have native dewberries, which are also spikey, but they keep them around anyway under the vines.

* What to look for, for your grapes:
   * South-facing-facing, sunny, good air and water drainage
   * It’s important to have enough sunlight (both for growth/ripening and to deter fungus).
   * They like their elevation for the microclimate.  [Sunny Woodlands is at 1300 feet, which gives me hope for our second attempt with grapes.]
   * Winds dry out the plants (which is a good thing in a wet climate. Where we are, technically qualifies as a rain forest).

It was a great Zoom conference–a video tour of the vineyard followed by Q&A. The session was recorded and will be released at the end of their tour season.

Mermaid Hill Vineyard is in Concord, NH. They offer tours, tastings and wine bar by reservations (See:
They are on Instagram  @mermaidhillvineyard 

Grapes for us, Take Two

At Sunny Woodlands Farm, we shall attempt table and wine grapes again, probably in a different location after we cut some more trees down on a drier slope, and probably after a tour and wine-tasting at Mermaid Hill to see first-hand how they do it. The Marquette grapes they grow are one of the types I tried to grow, and I’d love to see how wine from them turns out in a New Hampshire climate.

This year [2020], my goal is more modest and low-effort. I’m thinking of lashing together (with my son, a Scout) an arbor out of some of the birch staves we cut while clearing some land this Spring. I want to make the most of the wild grapes that grow elsewhere in that “bowl” that I made my first grape-growing attempt in,  and maybe we can make some jelly out of them next year.


in vino, veritas