First step in a new vineyard is not land acquisition. Per my best friend and coach (my wife), its getting smart and working in a vineyard. So I did that over the course of about 2 years. I got certified in viticulture via PVCC’s (in Charlottesville, VA) workforce services program in viticulture (and am near certification in enology) and I worked at a few vineyards pruning, planting, leaf pulling, shoot tucking, fruit dropping, fruit picking, general laboring and cleaning, fruit crushing, wine bottling, wine labeling, wine packing, wine racking, wine blending . . . you get the picture.
Second step in a new vineyard is checking the bank account and land search and acquisition. I started searching for land on my own via the Internet without a great deal of success. Fortunately, I bumped into a real estate agent (Jodi) who also owns a vineyard. She became my vineyard agent. She (and her partner) sent me leads. She (and her husband winemaker) generously walked sites with me, suggested bidding strategies and contingencies, identified potential vineyard site challenges and consultants, and helped me work a deal to buy land. I also bumped into a good representative from the local agricultural extension center (Tremain), who also walked and critiqued potential sites and opened me up to contacts at nearby vineyards for their thoughts. He also suggested good soil scientists and other consultants. All very helpful to this bookish wannabe vine guy.
Finally, after several years of searching, I found the parcel (I hope) in DC’s wine country, Loudoun County, VA. The parcel met my requirements and my new vineyard philosophy (borrowed from some successful VA winemakers and vineyard managers), “start small and build.” The parcel is the highpoint in the area (helps with frost, a major concern), is mostly cleared, has good slope (also helps with frost), apparently good vineyard characteristics (based on VA Tech’s very useful online site analysis tool), is less than 40 minutes from my home, is on a scenic VA byway, is beautiful land, and can serve a very large potential market (both winemakers without enough grapes and retail customers, again I hope).
My best friend and I signed contracts for the land and I’m anxiously awaiting settlement. Lots of work to do til that time, including soil and other studies to confirm suitability of land, and shrinking my bank account to pay for land. Don’t underestimate a vineyard’s ability to make your poor; hence, start small and build.
A former first lady said it takes a village to raise a child. Well, it takes a lot of people, time and treasure to start a vineyard. I’m looking forward to the challenge.