Year 4 of my backyard vineyard (and I only have a vague idea what I'm doing)

Seeking any and all advice from you who do this for a living:

Backstory: I got bitten by the wine bug about 15 years ago and since then have spent an inordinate amount of time trying to learn everything I can about it. Including making many trips from my home in Texas out to all of the major West Coast wine growing regions where I’ve been fortunate to visit with many very talented people ITB. As my collection has grown so has my knowledge about what is in the bottle, which in turn lead to a real desire to learn more about the farming and the actual process of making wine. To do that I read as much as I can and listen to the best in the business speak as much as possible (podcasts etc) but I’ve always found the best way to learn is by doing. In order to commit to that I decided to build a small vineyard (20 vines) in my back yard and start learning what it’s like to grow grapes and (hopefully) create wine.

Current Status: Last week I had bud break on what will be year 3 for these vines since planting. That means I’m expecting the first harvest of usable grapes and I’m only a few months out from having to figure out what to do with them :grimacing: Having toured many wineries and listened to professionals speak about the process I understand it at a very basic level, but these are facilities equipped for this and I’m just a guy trying to make something drinkable out of his backyard. This is where you come in - What would you do first? What is the essential equipment I need (a press, a tank, what else?) Any methods you would recommend (carbonic maceration, whole cluster use, inoculation, cold soaks, etc?) All advice is good advice here, even if it’s just a personal preference or opinion.

The Details:
Location - Allen, Texas (25 miles north of Dallas)
Soil Type: Blackland Clay. Shallow to moderately deep grey to black alkaline clay over chalk. Often referred to colloquially as “caliche” and is known to have high calcium content.

Short Term - Create a Rose
Mid Term - Create a Red Blend
Long Term - Create a Piquette with the leftovers

The Build -

The Vines -
Leaves and Flowers (which I removed) from last year

Dormant vines during an ice storm a couple months ago

Spur pruned vines 6 weeks ago

Bud break last week

Help me oh wise cellar rats, you’re my only hope…


I cannot offer anything other than kudos for giving it a whirl !! Good luck!!!


Happy farming Patrick. Here’s to you making some good wine this year. Rose is a safe choice I think for harvest 1.


This is awesome.

You can probably get a small basket press and do this all in open top fermenters (5 gallon pails) and carboys. Go down to your local wine making/brewing supply store and talk to them. They’ll have everything you need.


Thank You Troy, I’ve heard that’s the best place for glassware too. Definitely planning a trip to go get to know them soon.


It’s fun, right? I’ve had a backyard vineyard for almost 20 years now. I have learned a modest amount about growing vines, though not enough to be anywhere near competent to run a real vineyard. I made wine a couple of times, with the main lesson being: terroir is real, and my backyard has none lol. These days I let the vines grow because they are fun, add greenery, and the squirrels, birds, raccoons, and possums like the fruit in the fall :wink:


You should also watch FB Marketplace and Craigslist. People are often selling winemaking equipment for pennies on the dollar.


Good point Alan, I’m being realistic about that aspect too. I realize this is suburban Texas, not the Southern Rhone. If I can make anything that is drinkable, even if it needs a good chill on it to go down then that’s a win.

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For a few years we grew a grape vine in the backyard, and a big male Chuckwalla with a bright orange tail claimed that vine for his own. (Only males in the South Mountains boast the orange tails.) He lounged on our block wall, nibbling leaves and sunbathing – a Chuckwalla’s two favorite activities.



Kudos to you for actually doing this. I’m a certified professional thinker but not doer. I’ll happily think about learning to play the guitar, but not doing anything beyond the thinking.


This may be the funniest thing I’ve read here.


Lol, same here.

I wish I could do something like this, but unfortunately, I live in NYC, and it’s a no-go.

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We lived in Dallas proper for over a decade where it just wasn’t possible either. When we moved to the suburbs during lockdown I suddenly had more space and being able to see vines every day was something I had always wanted so I took the opportunity to convert what was a dog run into my 2 vine rows.

I also built a little garden there next to the rows where I’ve been growing a variety of peppers the last couple years. To experiment I started fermenting those and creating pepper sauces out of them - technically my first SKUs out of Star Creek Vineyard :joy:


To increase yield, have you considered going quadrilateral?


Hey @William_Segui great to hear from you. I had the pleasure of meeting you several years ago on one of our trips to Napa, this was when you were tasting out of Mending Wall. I’ll never forget your hospitality and the wonderful experience we had that day. There are two legendary quotes (at least in our household) from you - the first was when we had wrapped up our sampling of Rivers-Marie wines and you told us “It’s Friday in Napa” with a wonderful YOLO attitude as you returned from the back carrying as many William+Mary, Caterwaul, and other bottles as you could hold :joy:

After sampling them all several times and knowing that our visit was coming to an end you said “my wife will kill me if I come with this many bottles, you’ve got to take some” :upside_down_face: Which we did very happily and promptly canceled our dinner reservations that night, stopped at Calistoga market on the way back and grilled up a couple amazing steaks that we enjoyed with some of the finest wines we’ve had on any trip.

To answer your question - yes I did consider looking at quadrilateral when I was designing the vineyard. The reason I decided against is because we have notoriously high vigor soils here, yield is usually not our issue, rather quality is. Growers are typically trying to slow down their vines and control the vigor, I’ve gone to ~6 spurs per cordon in anticipation of this, but we’ll see how it goes. The other issues we have are trying to get enough natural acidity (never happens) and our generally poor diurnal temperature range during growing season (can’t control this unfortunately).

Let me know if you think otherwise, your input is always valued and appreciated. Cheers to you Will :wine_glass:


I’m going to say this having never grown a grape in my life, so I could have it absolutely backwards.

Wouldn’t you slow down ripening (and keep acidity) by giving the vine more to do, not less? More yield.


Certainly no expert either, which is why I’m here for advice. The general wisdom in our region is that quantity is never an issue, but quality definitely is. Probably explains why we’re the 5th largest wine producing state, yet the wines don’t have great critical regard like the 4 states above us do.


Think of fruiting plants as having two gears. First they focus on foliage, then shift their energy to fruit. In some situations you need to help them change that focus or they keep in foliage gear, with insufficient energy allocated to ripen the fruit. That can be literally never ripening or much less flavor development. With tomatoes, the primary issue is too much nitrogen availability, and that can certainly be a factor with grapes. In the long term, this can be addressed to some degree with cover crop choice, You don’t want nitrogen fixing legumes, for example. You want stuff that depletes nitrogen.

Nebbiolo is unusually vigorous. Growers do things like bending the shoot tips when they hit the desired lengths, or even trimming them off. That outward growth hormone is only in the tips, so that “sends the message” or flat out removes the ability to continue vigorous growth.


Got it. So what’s the best way for Patrick to retain acidity in his grapes?