Yellow Farmhouse Vineyard & winery began as an idea in the late 1990′s. Dale Rollings, an avid “basement winemaker”, having lived and worked in nearby St Charles for over thirty-five years, had visited the wineries of the Missouri River Valley many times and recognized that the wines made there were improving with each passing harvest. It was well known that vineyards were flourishing along the Missouri river from Defiance to Hermann, and that Highway 94 was becoming a veritable “route du vin”. Each weekend, more and more visitors made the journey to the vineyards and wineries that dotted the hills along the river.
In 2003, the first tract of land of what would become Yellow Farmhouse Vineyard & Winery was acquired. The namesake farmhouse was then a dilapidated bed-and-breakfast, but the hillside was perfect for growing grapes. In the spring of 2005 the first Norton vines were planted. The site location proved to be just right. Despite the worst drought in twenty-three years, by early summer the vines were out of their grow tubes and reaching for the trellis wires. By Fall most of the vines had reached over six feet. The vines, pruned and tied, were now training themselves to the wires of the trellis. Our vineyard was young but on their way.
By Spring of 2006 the plants were poised for second-year growth. Bud-burst in Missouri occurs in late April or early May, and by early June the abundance of the first year crop was obvious. Good viticulture practice says that you prune off the first year grapes to force the plants to spend their energies on developing root and vine support systems. It was tough to cut off all those young buds and forming bunches, but we did it, and the results were obvious. By the end of the second year growing season the vines were vigorous, deep-rooted and had significantly increased their trunk size. The third year would produce our first “estate grown” vintage.
In the meantime we learned of growers up and down the valley, and in other parts of Missouri, that had abundant crops of quality grapes that they were willing to sell for winemaking. Many Missouri growers take great pride in the quality of their fruit, and sources of good grapes were abundant. Most successful vintners are unable to grow enough grapes to supply their own wineries, so with that in mind, we began to talk to area growers about their 2006 crop.
We acquired a small tract of land, high ground just west of the Yellow Farmhouse that would be planted the following spring. We wanted a unique white wine that was suited to Missouri soil, and Traminette seemed to fit the bill. There are lots of Chardonel and Vignoles in the valley, but Traminette was a relative newcomer introduced in the 1990s. With hybridized vines by Cornell University and grafted rootstock from a propagator in upstate New York; we planted in April of 2006. With adequate rainfall and abundant sunshine that spring, the Traminette took off beyond our expectations. The vines will yield a light off-dry wine not unlike its famous German Gwertztraminer parent.
Over sixty inches of rain annually, coupled with an average 219 days of sunshine make Missouri a near perfect climate for abundant vine growth. Now and then a drought will set in and Mother Nature will need a helping hand. Irrigation was necessary shortly after planting our Norton vineyard in 2005, but generally when the roots get set into the earth natural rainfall is all that is needed for good vine growth.
Harvest in Missouri begins in late August with grapes continuing to ripen through September into early October. With constant testing we can tell when the sugar content of the grape reaches the desired level and therefore control the harvest. This is a busy time for us, because the grapes must be crushed the same day they are picked.