Originally published July 26, 2012.
Growing along U.S.-24, on a hillside between Roanoke and Huntington, are hundreds of grape vines.
Eric Harris and Emily Hart planted them there this spring, and now they are training them to grow according to vertical shoot positioning - a method used by vineyards in California to maximize visual appeal and efficiency of the plant, says Harris.
But why are these plants now a part of the Huntington County landscape?
They are a component of Harris' and Hart's dream of owning a winery.
Two EE's Winery, aptly named after Eric and his fiancé Emily (the two E's), is a work in progress.
So far, besides planting the vines, the pair has started construction at the 40-acre site, located at 6808 N. U.S.-24, where a 6,000-square-foot building will house the winery and tasting room, along with offices, warehousing and product storage.
But, back to the grapes.
Harris says there are nearly 10,000 different grape varietals, but only a few of those varietals are well known.
"We want to present you with the unfamiliar," he says.
So he and Hart have decided to plant vines that produce grapes that are not typical. Currently, seven different varietals are growing on their hill. Those are Traminette, Diamond, Briana, Grüner Veltliner, and Valin Muscat, which produce white wine; and Blaufankish and Norton, which produce red wine.
The wine made from these grapes will share the grape name.
The vines themselves came from California, and Harris explains that every grape vine is a clone of another. He says very rarely does a grape vine start from seed.
Harris says Cornell University, and the University of California - Davis, are two places in California that supply cloned vines.
These vines are distributed to wineries - such as Two EE's - and planted.
In Indiana, Harris says, "managing growth is difficult" when tending grape vines "not growing."
He points to a small vine that didn't fare well during planting, and says it is "strong, and hardy."
The plant has already recovered from its rough beginning and within a week's time has a new shoot growing.
Even a vine that is, as Harris puts it, "confused about the season" and appears to have dried up "still has life in it," he says. He expects this vine to thrive next season.
There are different methods of training the vines, but Harris says his preferred method, vertical shoot positioning, "looks better and is more efficient."
What this means for the vine is a T-like shape. The trunk grows up, and then the cordons, or arms, of the vine extend out horizontally on either side. Each cordon has many nodes on it, and each of these nodes, Harris says, will produce fruit.
Right now, the nodes are not important to Harris, as his focus is on establishing a trunk and training the cordons.
The drought has not hurt the vines yet, says Harris. But, uncharacteristically for grape vines, they have had to be watered. Harris says they installed a plastic piping along each row of vines to allow for easier watering. He says this year with little rainfall, keeping the vines hydrated has required, "more effort than expected."
Eventually, each vine will be trained and the nodes will be allowed to grow and produce fruit.
Then, those grapes will be turned into varietal wines, "one hundred percent from the grape we say they are," says Harris.
He is not a fan of blends and says he feels they are the least interesting wines, describing them as "boring and monotonous."
No opening date has been set for the winery. The building structure, which is pre-manufactured, is expected to arrive no later than Aug. 23.
Harris is wishful that the winery will be open by this fall, as the opening day has already been pushed back further than he had hoped.