This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
The very unusual attention which is now being attracted to the cultivation of grapes throughout the United States will perhaps render acceptable to your readers the results of a ten days survey of some of the best vineyards of our country and an indefatigable questioning of their gentlemanly proprietors.
My field of observations was chosen where, as is well known, the grape has been most extensively and most successfully cultivated - upon the picturesque hills of the Ohio, environing the Queenly City of Cincinnati.
Here within a radius of twenty miles are planted fifteen hundred acres of vineyards, two thirds of which are in bearing. The average yield will not be estimated at less than two hundred and fifty gallons of wine per acre, which will give at the present yield two hundred and fifty thousand gallons of wine worth from one, dollar to one dollar and fifty cents per gallon.
The rapidity with which this cultivation increases, may be inferred from the statistics which show that this year were sold in Cincinnati two millions of grape cuttings and four hundred thousand roots; a quantity sufficient to plant more than six hundred acres of vineyards.
These were distributed to every part of the Union, from New York to Missouri and as far south as Georgia and Texas. The average prices were, for Cuttings two dollars and a half per thousand and for roots forty dollars per thousand.
It is interesting to know that while the increase has been so large in the quantity of wine manufactured, the demand increases in a still greater ratio. The first cultivators found considerable difficulty in obtaining a market for the produce of their vines but now they have a ready market for their vintage at good prices.
In addition to the amount under cultivation for grapes above stated, other parts of the south and west are extensively employed in the same manner. At Hermann Missouri - there arc five hundred acres and in Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee North Carolina and Georgia are probably as many acres more.
We who admiringly glance over these thriving vineyards scarcely think of the many difficulties which surrounded the introduction of the grape into our country.
Many years were spent in unsuccessful attempts and not a few instances of severe loss and disappointment to the early cultivators occurred before success was attained.
Immigrants from the Vine-Clad hills of Switzerland, France and Germany brought with them both the European vines and the skill to cultivate them; fondly hoping to reproduce here about their new homes, that which had become to them the emblem of peace and plenty; the name of which like the " Hearthstone" of our more northern ancestry was the word around which clustered all the associations of Home.
Although from the earliest settlements of the west various efforts were made to cultivate the vine, both by importing foreign varieties and by selecting the best productions of our native wilds; not one of these early vineyards is now in existence and no one has to this day, in any part of the United States, been successful in obtaining even a tolerable vineyard from any foreign grape.
Nor has any one of the hundreds of nurserymen and amateurs who have been and still are industriously striving to obtain new seedling varieties yet produced one which has been sufficiently valuable in all respects to come into general cultivation.
The only source then from which has been derived those two or three varieties which have formed the basis of American success, has been our native grape*.
While this infant enterprise was maintaining a doubtful conflict with difficulties seemingly unsurmountable; it received the timely aid of Mr. N. Longworth, even then one of Cincinnati's wealthiest citizens who after spending more than one small fortune in fruitless attempts to introduce the foreign vine and vinedressers, obtained and proved the value of the Catawba Grape which now constitutes nine tenths of the vineyards cultivated in the west. It is a native grape obtained from the mountains of North Carolina.
In the manufacture of wine Mr. Longworth has rendered to the country no less signal service - for without any experience to guide him, which was adapted to our new circumstances, a multitude of vexatious disappointments and losses must be met and overcome. Even after years of successful manufacture a year or two since through some untoward circumstances he lost by bursting in a single season thirty-six thousand bottles valued at one dollar per bottle - enough to have ruined any ordinary fortune.
No wonder then that all the vinedressers of the country regard Mr. L. as the father of wine culture in the United States; he having accomplished by his own private fortune and untiring enterprise, that which must otherwise have failed or only succeeded by slow degrees. Mr. Longworth is still extending his arrangements for the manufactureof his "sparkling Catawba" by building yet other cellars where" the process peculiar to the manufacture of this wine may be perfected. His cellars furnish this year one hundred and twenty thousand bottles of the "Sparkling," and next year he expects to increase the amount to two hundred thousand bottles.
The "Still" or "dry" wines are the kind chiefly made by other cultivators, indeed no vineyard, however small the cellarage of its proprietor, seems to be without its casks of wine, but the manufacture of the "Sparkling" requires a deep cellar with large tuns for its fermentation.
Great efforts are being made by the most enterprising cultivators to produce and introduce new varieties of the grape but at present none have been sufficiently tested to entitle them to a very prominent place in general cultivation. Thus far the Catawba stands unrivalled. The Isabella in that climate, ripens its berries unequally; and the " Cape" is even being dug up as not worth cultivation.
Mr. Longworth, Mr. Buchanan, Dr. Mosher and all who have tried it express great hopes of the " Herbemont" and it is forming a large share in the new plantations now being made. It is said to blossom about eight days later than the Catawba, and to mature its fruit several days sooner. It is a small, nearly black berry, growing very close on the cluster - very sweet with tender pulp and thin skin and not as liable as other varieties to be affected by the "rot".