Growing, Processing and Selling Organic Grape Vinegar and Verjus

2012 Annual Report for FNC12-862

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2012: $7,391.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Grant Recipient: Three Heart Farm
Region: North Central
State: South Dakota
Project Coordinator:
Steven Hauff
Three Heart Farm

Growing, Processing and Selling Organic Grape Vinegar and Verjus

Summary

WORK ACTIVITIES THIS YEAR:
– Completed USDA Organic Certification program to become a certified organic vineyard.
– Full vineyard management (tended vines, tied vines, monitored plant development, weeded, mowed, irrigated, mulched, pruned, netted)
– Reconfigured irrigation drip system to partial underground system and general maintenance of drip system.
– Spent approximately 200 hours researching equipment needs, calling every South Dakota vineyard for insight, guidance and possible used equipment for sale.  When information seemed guarded, we traveled at our own expense to St. Helena, CA and researched new and used vineyard equipment and sizing needs.
– Consultation services from Lawrence Diggs, two days at the vineyard, inspecting, vinegar making techniques, marketing options, product tasting and proper sample testing technique.
– Visited regional vineyards for marketing insight.
– Spent 40 hours researching packaging sources and costs associated
– Purchased netting, destemmer/crusher, stainless steel press, containers, vessels, brushes, stoppers, bottles, corks, drying trees, PH tester, yeasts, thermometers, pipetts, bottle tags, corker, manuals on vinegar making and vineyard management, purchased software for website, saved potential website names
– Attended SDSU Horticulture class on vineyards and networked with other vineyard owners
– Created logo for vinegar and verjus bottles
– Bottled, labeled and stored vinegars for aging

RESULTS:
– Learned steps of vinegar conversion and hands on to understand if the process is on track
– Learned the temperature sensitivity of acidobactors and the effect it has on vinegar conversion and flavors
– Experimented with commercial yeasts
– The drought had a significant impact on our vines with environmental stress.  We were disappointed with the limited 2012 harvest but had adequate product to fully test our processing techniques.

WORK PLAN FOR 2013:
– Continue operating and maintaining vineyard and harvest equipment, conduct harvest and process grapes
– Test progress of 2012 aging
– Provide products to chefs for feedback
– Continue experimenting with different yeasts
– Determine best vessels to meet flavor profile goals
– Document progress
– Determine best course for future production

SHARING INFORMATION WITH OTHERS:
– Five groups of adults attended separate 4-6 hour classes of vineyard care, including hands-on pruning seminars
– One grade school and one middle school class attended fieldtrip to learn about organic farms and vineyards.  Students had hands-on pruning experience
– Numerous personal vineyard tours
– Off site assistance of other grape growers, seeking organic options and pruning instructions
– Hosted multiple chefs on our operation
– Guest speaker at Women in Agriculture Conference in Keystone, SD.