A great glass of wine starts right here in the vineyard. They say it’s easy to make a good wine from good grapes. It’s even easier to make a bad wine from good grapes. A top-notch winemaker can make a great wine from good grapes. However, it is impossible to make a great wine from bad grapes. That is why it is very important here at North Gate Vineyard to make sure the winemaking process gets off to a good start right here in the Vineyard. Please feel free to explore the information here about our grapes and our vineyard. We hope you find it useful and a testament to our dedication to growing quality winegrapes.

Vineyard Philosophy

We believe that to be a quality winegrower, you need to really be in tune with a few things (start zen music now!)

  1. Know your site: Know how it drains; are there any soggy spots? What kind of soil do you have? Are there any frost pockets or places that get colder (or hotter) than others? Does it get sun all day? How long does take for the morning sun to reach it? Which way do the winds usually blow? Know these things and more! It will direct your planting, when you harvest, how you spray, etc.
  2. Know your grapes: Every varietal is different. Heck, every vine in your vineyard is different. We are not saying you need to name each and every vine, but realize that often one size does not fit all. Understand how your grapes grow, the needs that they have, and apply that to your site! This will help you with pruning, fruit thinning, harvest time, etc.
  3. Be involved: In order for you to achieve #1 and #2 above, you need to be involved in your vineyard. You need to prune, you need to plant, you need to fruit thin, you need to walk the vineyard very regularly. We are not saying that you need to do it all yourself, we all need lots of help as we grow. However, allowing everyone else to do it all will not improve you as a winegrower.
  4. Be open minded: Be a student of your vineyard. Every winegrower has their own opinions, tricks, practices and beliefs. They often have no problems telling you this. This information is often quite helpful if you know how it applies to you. If you have worked hard at #1, #2 and #3, then you will be able to absorb lots of these ideas and concepts and make educated decisions on how they may be able to help you in your own vineyard.

These are things we firmly believe in, and they guide us in our quest to be the best winegrowers that we can be. Besides, if we weren’t involved in our vineyard, we wouldn’t be having as much fun as we do tending the vines!

Our Winegrapes

Here are the current varieties we have planted:

Varietal Clone Rootstock Date Planted # of Vines
Viognier 1 3309C 4/13/2002 50
Cabernet Sauvignon 7 3309C 4/13/2002 25
Petit Verdot 2 3309C 4/30/2006 1568
Viognier Alban 3309C/101-14 4/15/2008 1008
Cabernet Sauvignon 7 101-14 5/24/2012 25
Petit Manseng Horton 101-14 5/24/2012 1700

Vineyard Layout

Our vineyard is planted with the following spacing:

  • 560 foot long rows
  • 5 feet between vines
  • 9 feet between rows – That’s “5×9″ spacing in vineyard lingo!

Row posts are spaced 20 feet apart, and each “panel” has 4 vines.

Trellising System

We currently use vertical shoot positioning (VSP) to train the vines, and the corresponding trellis system to support it. Our first wire is 42” off the ground. We then have two pairs of catchwires (one on each side of the row post) equally spaced at 57” and 72” above the ground.

End Posts

We use a pretty simple endpost design that works for us. We have 48” earth anchors holding a beefy wood endpost at a 45 degree angle.

Protection from Critters

In this part of Virginia, the deer are plentiful and they are usually hungry. If (when) they find your vineyard, they can eat all the grapes and most of the leaves before you know what hit you. We believe the best way to combat this is with a deer fence of some kind. It does add to your initial investment, but if done up front and correctly, you won’t need to worry about the deer too much from that point on.

Our deer fence is very traditional 10-wire 8 foot high fence. The first 7 wires are electrified. The bottom wires are closer together than the top wires. Fence posts are about 30 feet apart. The corners are reinforced with extra posts. We have a 12 foot wide gate for entry. Some people say to bait the fence with some peanut butter (hung on the fence with aluminum foil strips) so you can show the deer who’s boss and they will learn to avoid the fence. We never did this and it seemed to work. The deer have shifted their movements to go around the fence as they pass through. However, we have our peanut butter ready for when we encounter that daredevil deer.

For our smaller vineyard block, we initially did not put up a deer fence. It was closer to the house and we didn’t want the expense or site of a fence. Our solution was to purchase a temporary deer fence that we would only need to use when the grapes are almost ripe. The deer seem to stay away from this vineyard until the grapes are nice and ripe. Then they usually come in and eat them all at once! Last year we used 10′ T-posts and purchased an 8 foot high black mesh plastic fence from deerbusters. Deer problems are gone. We leave one side of the fence attached with bungee cords so we can easily and quickly take it down to spray. We take the fence down after harvest so we don’t need to look at it all year. It is lightweight, cost efficient, effective, and easy to store.

Birds can also be a problem here in Virginia. I’ve heard of swarms of thousands of robins attacking one vineyard and pecking it clean of grapes! Sounds scary! We haven’t had that experience (thank goodness), but we do use a “Birdgard” which is an electronic device that sends out bird distress calls and predatory bird calls at configurable intervals. It works real well for us. Since we started using it 3 seasons ago, we have almost eliminated our grape loss to birds. We turn it on just when the red grapes are starting to turn color. We set it to run through the bird calls every 15 seconds. The only downside to this is that our neighbors and mailman think that there is a constant bird fight going on around our property! It is pretty funny seeing them get up the courage to ask us what the heck is going on!

We’ve also successfully used old CD’s attached to the trellis wire and vineyard posts so they move and sparkle in the wind. We’ve only done this on our small vineyard block and I think it would be harder to do on larger blocks. AOL doesn’t send out too many free CD’s anymore in the mail so it might be harder to get a large lot of used CD’s.