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  • Rebecca Drew

Celebrating Your Roots with Grapevines


America Grape Cluster Blooms
'America' Grape Cluster Blooms

Apparently, many people are planting grapevines these days. One favorite vineyard supplier had a record year, and they predict they will sell even more grapevines next year. When I looked into alternative sources, they were out of stock on varieties I was considering. I was hoping to add a new variety to the mix, known as L'Acadie Blanc. It is mainly grown in Canada, where it has received awards. The vine does best with cooler summers, and we certainly don't have that here in the South!


Rather than continuing to search for L'Acadie Blanc, I turned my focus to the current vines. While walking by their luxurious leaves and numerous blooming clusters, I was struck by how much I chose varieties based on heritage. I was drawn to L'Acadie Blanc based on the name, and then I saw the awards and reviews. This is a case of good marketing matching the hype, and admittedly, I may not have paid attention if I did not have some Acadian ancestors. Even though it is a hybrid grape created a few hundred years after my ancestors left Acadia, I still felt a connection when I read a winery's description of the locale where L'Acadie Blanc is grown.


What other grapes did I choose based on heritage? Well, the Brianna grape represents the best of the Midwest. It is a hardy variety capable of creating multiple styles of wine, and it's even good for snacking, so they say. Versatile and hardy are also words I would use to describe many Midwesterners, including my mom's father. Then, there is Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. They need no introduction, but as I walk down "Cabernet Lane," consisting of ten grapevines, I feel connected to my mom's French-Canadian grandfather, who grew grapes after retiring in Napa. Granted, it was just a grape arbor created to feed birds, because he was more into plums than grapes. I don't know if he grew Cabernet, but their ease of cultivation in California, along with their French origins, allows one to make the connection, right?


Let's not forget Chasselas! There are only two vines of this variety, and it was a tiny ordeal to get them from California. They were chosen for their ability to get along with other plants in the garden, and they make somewhat neutral, yet nice and dependable wines. Sounds like they fit the profile of their native Switzerland, and yes, I knowingly chose them to reflect the Swiss-German roots of my mom's father. Some say it was originally grown in France, though. Luckily, I know he had at least two ancestors who went back and forth between France and Switzerland, so I'm covered in the historical accuracy department. Regardless, these particular vines were initially raised in my mom's birth state of California, and they were super-pampered in that nice climate. I was a bit concerned about how they would respond on the East Coast. They are not growing rapidly like the others, but they are taller, and they have such pretty little leaves. Even if they never produce grapes, I am happy to have their lacy foliage greet visitors to the garden.


Are you getting any ideas about what varieties to grow while representing your heritage? If not, then let me give you a few other examples. I am growing a Muscadine seedling while monitoring a few wild vines near the cultivated vines. These Muscadines represent the other half of my heritage, the southern side. My grandfather grew them, and these grapes seem rather abrasive at times - just like him! Other times, if they are approached at the right time and carefully crafted in the winery, they can be quite pleasant - again, just like him!


Of course, if you want to go for something more general, then the America vine is a good bet, in my humble opinion. The name says it all. This is a native workhorse vine, and it can take on surprising flavors, even making a good Port-style wine without the additional alcohol. If I had to choose just one variety, I would probably choose America. That way, I am celebrating all of our ancestors who ended up here, and I would not have to use so much spray and fertilizer compared to other vines.


Meanwhile, what grapevines would you plant in honor of your heritage?


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