Grow Your Own Vines

growing your own grapes

You won’t believe this, but the state of Pennsylvania ranks eighth in the nation for wine production, and fourth nationally in the amount of grapes grown. That’s great news for me. I like the idea of drinking local wine, and my family’s farm is only a mile away from J. Maki Winery. Since 1991, we’ve strolled down the lane and supported the local agriculture by toting a few bottles back home for dinner every so often. The wine is not great, but certainly good enough, and the prices, until very recently, were justified.

But that all changed last year when someone at the vineyard realized that wine consumers equate high prices to high quality and will pay dearly for a bottle of local sparkling wine. A bottle of 1999 Blanc de Blancs will now cost you $113, while a bottle of 1997 is an absurd $2,500. In general, the prices used to be a third of what they are now—the 1997 Blanc de Blancs was about $30.

When first I realized that I could no longer afford to support local farmers and winemakers I grieved deeply: Denial led to anger, then depression, and finally acceptance.

But don’t worry, there’s a happy ending here, I’ve decided not to be the victim. Instead of buying two bottles of 1999 Blanc de Blancs from J. Maki vineyards, I spent the same money on 40 grape vines, including the varietals Zweigelt, Dornfelder, Riesling, and Gewurztraminer.

A farmer’s life, as it turns out, is not the life for me. I rented some heavy equipment and called a few friends who were apparently bored enough to take some time off work to help me plant. I started to realize, as our sweat poured into the freshly tilled soil, that I will owe them wine for as long as these vines grow grapes, and that won’t begin for another three to four years. So until then I’ll be practicing my fermentation skills on grapes that I plan to buy from local growers.

All in all, I feel good about standing up to tyrannical capitalists. And when my wine is finally in the bottle, the first thing I plan to do is march back to the local vineyard and thank them for the motivation.

Subscribe to Gourmet