Sunday, April 3, 2011

Growing Grapes in the Desert

This is a bonus post for today's topic.  This morning I wrote about the Canyon Grape which is a wild grapevine that grows around the Tucson area.   While this vine isn't tasty for the human variety, it sure makes a nice meal for our birds.  What do you say?  Are there grapes for people?  Oooooooh yes:)  I get excited about this plant because they do very well here.  The UA has them growing at their extension office off of Campbell Road.  Homeowners have dedicated their yards to these amazing plants while people in Sonoita are playing around with new grape varieties out of Spain in their vineyards.  We have a wide variety of grapes to choose from and they love our sun. At around 6 dollars, you can purchase some wonderful table grapes or those grapes that will make great wine. From my experiences here, I have to admit that if you are making a GOOD wine, it will most likely be the white sparkly that outshines the red merlots or pinot noirs. Southern Arizona is getting better with their reds(hence the experimentation of several grape varieties out of Spain) and there is one winery that, in my opinion, makes several nice red wines. My favorite taste was the tempranillo from Canelo Hill Winery.  After our wine tasting trip in Sonoita, I discovered that the whites outperformed the reds in this state.  I'm a Pinot Noir guy so I took it easy on the white wines. There is no question.....I love wine and this post is on grapes so let me get to the point:)
So what grows here?  Pretty much everything when it comes to grapes, but be advised......do not grow in shade.  Give full sun.  The trickiest part of growing grapes here isn't the "growing" as much as it is the pruning in winter. Here is a list of grapes for your red and white wine pleasures and some table(to eat)grapes.

WINE - RED


Dolcetto - early
Malbec - early
Pinot Noir - early(my favorite)
Tempranillo - early(makes me crazy)
Cabernet Franc - mid
Merlot - mid(good)
Syrah - mid(good)
Petit Sirah - late mid
Barbera - late(dry)
Cabernet Sauvignon - late
Grenache - late(yum)
Nebbiolo - late
Sangiovese - late(not too shabby)

WINE - WHITE
Chardonnay - early
Pinot Gris - early
Sauvignon Blanc - early
French Colombard - early to mid
Muscat Blanc - mid
White Riesling - late(sorry Riesling fans....this is the nastiest of the wines, but many people like this:)
TABLE
(thinner skinned
and may be seedless)
Thompson seedless (white) - mid-late
Perlette (white) - early
Flame seedless (red) - early(yum)

I've grown the Thompson, Concord, and Flame seedless grape with great success.  If you're a beginning gardener and have a few extra bucks, why not try one out? The national chains will usually sell the table grapes, but for specialized wine grapes, go to places like Mesquite Valley or Civano Nursery.   For those who want a vineyard, first investigate Sonoita and speak with the owners.  Then find an area of your garden with a lot of sun to plant your grapes. I've seen several homeowners in the Oro Valley area that have made their front yards....vineyards. While I think it's cool, it kinda looks tacky from the road, but hey it's not my place and the green vines look cool. You also need some room and area for your vines to crawl.  Grapes and wine are good things, but just remember that room is key and that in winter, they don't have leaves and look like twigs sticking out of the ground:) These vines are climbers and need support as they do not cling. Tomorrow I have another vine popular for Tucson that LOVES our sun.  Until next time, cheers!
For more details on growing grapevines, check out this link on how it takes before you can start enjoying your grapes as well as other fun details..... http://www.jewishtucson.org/page.aspx?id=111410



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