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Vineyard Progress

We planted a 3.5 acre vineyard earlier this year as part of our farming expansion. The goal of this vineyard is to source grapes for our beers from right here on the Jester King farm, and ultimately, to make natural wine.

Grape harvest season is in full swing here in Texas. The Jester King vineyard, however, still needs time to become established before we are willing to harvest our grapes. Instead, we chose to prepare the land and the vines for the future of the vineyard - building the foundation for future fruitful harvests. Due to the nature of working with our mixed culture and spontaneous fermented beers, we have become quite familiar with the practice of patience. Patience will continue to be important going forward with our natural wine program.

Overall pruning is especially important in the early stages of vine growth. This summer, when the grapes started popping up as tiny green clusters, we clipped those clusters off and tossed them to the land to decompose. By cutting the clusters before they grew into ripe grapes, we directed the plant to move that energy elsewhere -- towards building stronger roots.

Next is maintenance of the land on the vineyard. While planting in early spring, we seeded the vineyard with wildflower, native grasses, and daikon. We recently trimmed those plants surrounding the vines and created what is essentially a nest around each vine. Those plants will soon decompose and provide vital nutrients to the soil. This also gives our vines a step up against neighboring plants that could become competition for nutrients. Another aspect of prepping the land is implementing a compost tea schedule which will include our mixed culture. This helps incorporate more Saccharomyces cerevisiae (AKA brewer’s yeast) into the local microflora, which ultimately creates better natural wine.

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Daikon radishes were planted because it is the deepest driving radish, growing to lengths of 2+ feet. They grew and were ready for picking, but instead of taking them in for our own consumption, we left them to flower, seed themselves for next year’s germination, and then decompose in the vineyard. Now what is left is a daikon-shaped hole in the soil. The purpose was to create a fibrous trap to catch water for the vines, natural tilling, and to feed proteins to the soil. Below you can see the daikon in early spring vs. the daikon now.

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Although our vineyard could easily have given us a very modest harvest this year, we found it more vital to give the vines the time they need to establish themselves. We will continue to do so until our vines are hearty enough to share the wealth (grapes). Until then, we keep on maintaining the vines and the land, whispering sweet nothings to them when no one is looking, and wait a couple of years.

- Traci Walker, Jester King Wine Coordinator