Input – Getting a vineyard started

Input – Getting a vineyard started – Oregon / Amity-Eola Hills AVA Growers, if you are so inclined to provide input on starting a vineyard in the Amity / Eola Hills area, please contribute. The comments will be moderated, but I will post them after I see them.. Your name and email are now required to comment due to spaning, If you provide your email, it will not be public and will not be disclosed.  

General Comments

  1. Take the class at Chemekita – I’ve heard this from every one we’ve talked to..
  2. Don’t rush into it, take your time, get involved and ask alot of questions..
  3. Here is a expensive book to buy “Oregon Viticulture” – if you hold out for a while you’ll find the book for < $100.00
  4. Chemeketa Community College’s Vineyard Mgmt program “Grapes – (Crop Production Science in Horticulture)”
  5. ORWI Collection of pointers – Must Read
  6. ORWI – Establishing a Vineyard
  7. These papers from Michigan State really give you a general feel for what it takes to setup the Vineyard (root stock, trellis system, pruning and general vine management overview)
  8. Land Development Comments later in the page (see below)

Form the standpoint of understanding pruning, what type of grapes grow well, what root stock to use, if you need irrigation, sprays and general chemical management I would recommend a Viticulture Management class to help you truly understand what you are getting yourself into.   You will become a farmer, and the closer you are the to vine the less profit you will partake in. (see business planning below)

Business Planning

  1. Oregon Viticulture”  – Chapter on Vineyard Planning (first section)
  2. Establishing and Producing Cabernet Sauvignon Wine Grapes in Eastern Oregon
  3. Establishing and Producing Pinot Noir in Oregon 

Getting Plugged-In

  1. Eola-Amity Hills AVA
  2. – get on their mailing list : Danielle Gabriel – Outreach and Communications Manager Oregon Wine Research Institute  (541) 737-3620
  3. Attend the WineGrowers’ Meeting, and the Eola-Amity Hills meeting the WineGrowers’ Meeting is the first Tuesday of the month in Keizer at McNary Estates

Oregon Wine Growers

General Interesting Stats and tools

  1. Oregon USDA Statistics
  2. USGS Web Soil Survey – if you’re buying property, you’ll use this

Land Development Insights

  • As of 2015, you’ll get estimates for land clearing (stumps and limited rocks) at about $3.5K-$5K/acre using a track-hoe. But, that’s not the end of it.  If you want to get it “ready to plant”…
  • Chisel Tractor (Add $500-$1,000)/acre
  • Rock clearing and Stick clearing (after Chisel)  if you have it done is going to be expensive $2-$4K/acre
  • Note: after talking with many of the vineyard owners in the Eola Hills area, Deep ripping is not needed.  Generally (unless there are huge rocks directly below the surface) the vines will find a way.  You might save a lot of money (rip+mess cleanup+rocck removal) by just not doing it.. However, if you do, deep rip should only cost you a few hundred / acre (shop around), but if you have a lot of rocks you’ll end up with a mess.  With deep ripping you’ll bring alot of these rocks up to the surface.  Either way, if you’re going to plant anchors and end posts, have those cleared as best as possible.  Note: You may not need to deep rip for grapes.
  • After Ripping, there will be more rock and sticks.  Again, if you have it done is going to an additional $2-$4K/acre – farm labor is between $13/$15 per hr ( put your kids to work  and fund their College 🙂
  • If you add that up, it’s not cheap :-).
  • don’t forget Power and Water.

Bottom line, plan your land purchase accordingly.

Excavation and Land Prep



about 1/2 way ready ($$$):


Ready for Ripping (1.5+ acres)1_5_acres_ready_for_rip_5_7_2015_b

Our Journey 

It started long before we purchased the property in 2015.  I’d been making wine since 2001 and working off and on helping out at a winery off North Valley Rd. in Newberg. My sister is also a brewer and had started building a Micro-Brewery (more like a pico-brewery) called Ironwood Brewery in Valporasio Indiana. We started looking for property in 2013.  It really did take us 2 years to find something that we thought was a good match, affordable and met what we felt was the market price.  We’d seen alot of property that had been sitting on the market for a long time and it was over priced.  With Measures passed to allow property to be sub-divided to 5 acre parcels we looked at many 5 acre parcels in Yamhill county. Many of them were perfect but most were sitting waiting for someone who had a lot of money and didn’t have a good understanding of the value of land. (lesson learned – spend time figuring out what is a good market price)  I’ll also tell you a realtor is not much help here.  We loved our realtor and wouldn’t have done it without them, but we ended up having more insights on un-developed land after looking for 1 year than they did. We found the property after doing a organized bike ride at Stoller’s.  Mary had been with her “bike bunch” ride on the Wednesday before and they climbed up Eola-Hills Rd.  She and the bunch rode by it and said we should go look.  We did and here we are. We did a lot wrong and I can tell you so far it’s worked out ok, but as of the first two acres of land clearing (April, 2015) there is a large list of things we’d do different :-).

  • Take the Chemeketa Vineyard Mgmt Class.  It’s not cheep but a couple key take aways.
    1. You learn what you’re getting into
    2. You have some insight into the risks
    3. You will not learn the process for clearing the land and building a vineyard, but you’ll meet a few people who have done it recently (like us)
    4. You’ll quickly realize this is not a cheep deal, and there is alot of up front $$ that need to go into it.  If this scares you good, You should be.  The General Viticulture class makes you go through a high level business plan.
  • You’ll probably need a well.  Get a list of wells and their depths by  going to the county and finding the depth of the wells around you. (ours are around 400′ — outch).  We did not do this.
  • Power.  How close is power and what will it take to bring in a 320amp service?
  • Let’s talk dirt.  Excavation is not cheep.   I don’t care what you read on the internet, so far, between a well and excavation this has been our biggest surprise.  If you have rocks it’s alot more than one would think, drop by and we’re happy to share our experience here (just for the 2 acres we did).  Pick a good excavator and find references.  Question them all and don’t be afraid to let them go and move on down the list.
  • The well.  That was the next task.  Get water.
    We struck water, but you’d a thought we were looking for oil.  477′ later we had a well.  I have to say our experience with finding water was excellent, all be it expensive. We were prepared for this given the depth of wells around.  The well drilling company we chose was excellent.  They set and delivered within expectations, so all in all (other than the empty check book) the experience was good.
  • With 2 acres clear’ed and 8 more acres of grass, rocks, trees, brush, blackberries, poison oak and Canadian thistles we quickly realized that a tractor with implements would be a requirement.
    We found that renting was not all that bad.  For about $300 you can get a mower/brush hog and box scrapper.  At some point you’ll also need a tractor based sprayer to stay on top of the weeds in the field.
    At the end of the day we picked up used tractor from our local Vineyard supply store in McMinnville.  Great folks and we plan on working with them for years to come.   By the way, tractors are not cheap either. :-).
  • Ok, well in, tractor purchased.. some other near term things start popping up on the list.   Well house.  Also.. Power.. It’s July and we’re running out of $ and time.  That 500′ hole has water, but you got to get it out and pump it.  You’ll need to store it some where and the pump needs power to get the water out of the hole.
  • now more to do..
    • Fence to keep the deer out
    • Trellis system (put in before or after planting — great question)
    • Irrigation (to irrigate or not — great question)
    • Field prep – lime an nutrients based on soil analysis..
    • Planting –
    • Grow tubes (to use them or not — great question)
    • Praying –
    • … more to come …

Trying to keep up to date.. The Acre+ is in



  • The property was planted in October of 2016.  We purchased
    the vines from a Nursery and they were delivered after we fenced and put in all the end and in-line posts.
    1255 plants planted 8′ rows 5′ planting
    1/4 Pinot 667
    1/4 Pinot 114
    1/4 Pinot Wädenswil
    1/4 Dijon Chardonnay
    We were going to plant 7′ rows but decided on 8′ since it was recommended by the vineyard owners on the East side of
  • Given we have a small tractor and a brush-hog the 7′ rows would have saved us a second mowing pass, but we ended up buying a riding mower (Deere) and it would have been two passes either way.
  • A couple of comments regarding the 1st year
    • Clean the rows first – i.e. if you are going to use Glyphosate do it early and let it sit.  This saves alot of spring spraying
    • Grow Tubes – We used the carton grow tubes, but ended up within 3 weeks with PM.  (lots of it).
      We also heard two sides to this.  Some are believers in Grow Tubes, others are not.
      We ended up pulling them off since they were full of spores.  We burned them and left them off all winter.
      We put new ones back on in February after we trimmed to 2 buds.
      2017 started out cool, so it got the plants started nicely and helped with spraying, but come May, the smaller diameter grow tubs started burning the plants in the 90dF temperatures.
      We pulled every other row to see what would happen.
      Ask us and we’ll tell you what the results were.20161016_102143
    • Spraying – For cleaning within the rows, 2 sprays in spring appeared to have done well for keeping the rows clean.  We sprayed out about 1 foot from the plant row and between plants.
      The second spray was really mostly a clean up.
      Trellis (pre-emergent) was recommended to be added to the Glyphosate, however the cost is was a bit too much.  Lots of varied input regarding 1st year spraying and we’re still trying to work it out.20170402_134557

Time line (not including the 2 years looking)

  •  Purchase Property
  • Clearing (if needed)
  • Land Prep (rocks and roots removal)
  • Cover Crop – Ideally you let the field go fallow for 1 year to mitigate Armillaria (
  • Order your Vines from a Certified Nursery 18 month ahead of time (saves you some money)
  • If you’re going to require irrigation you’ll need
    1. water
    2. power
    3. plumbing to the rows




Helpful Pointers to Great Information

Vineyard Install



Planting & Training

Top Grafting at Stoller’s

Cover crop

One thought on “Input – Getting a vineyard started

  1. Eola-Amity Hills AVA meeting right next door to you at Bella Collina (a new B & B) – 6280 SE Eola Hills Rd, Amity OR 97101 at 5:30 pm, next Wednesday, January 10, 2018. You will meet most of the neighbors who farm in the area – a very friendly and cooperative group.

    Also highly recommend that you attend Oregon Grape Growers Group – very informal and very helpful. Meets the first Tuesday of each month at McNary County Club in Keizer from 6:00 to 9:00 pm. This month they have moved the meeting to Tuesday the 9th. So, you can attend two VERY informative groups in two days next week.

    My rule of thumb has always been $30,000 per acre for the first three years (until first harvest) for small (under 10 acre) vineyards.

    Think you will be happy with the 8 foot row separation.

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