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.
Friend Mead: - A stormy day and a good cold conjoin to keep me in-doors today, and this has been pretty much the case for several days past, so that I have read up the "Horticulturist" and "Monthly," and other fireside companions, and am rather at a loss how to amuse myself this morning; so I set down to have a little Horticultural chat with you. Well, what shall be the subject? "Grapes." So be it. I confess to have a little of that mania, just a little. New grapes? Bah! you don't call the Delaware new, do you? It is an established institution. Who cares whence it came? I like to know whither a few of them go. If I had a hundred acres in fruit bearing, I should have no fears about them all going. It appears to be overcoming the debility engendered by improper propagation. This propagating from the weak and succulent laterals I regard as wholly inexcusable on the part of any honest nurseryman. I would rather have one good healthy plant than to have a dozen of such. "What about the Cuyahoga? Yon are expected to know something about that." Well, let me say that my con-fidence in its superior excellence is unabated, although the last two seasons have not presented fruit equal to its former character. "Why?" First, remember there is but one vine of any importance: with eyes selling at 25 to 15 cents,, each, of course they are of more importance than fruit.
The summer of 1860 was one in which the mildew affected our vines to an extent I had never known before; even the Clinton and the forest vines were much affected by it. The foliage of the Cuyahoga was very considerably, and the fruit somewhat, affected by it for the first and only time in its history; consequently, it did not attain its usual character, although from it many of the highest expressions of opinion were obtained. The Isabellas beside of it produced no fruit worth gathering.
On the second morning of May, 1861, we had a severe freeze. Ice from 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick. The young shoots on the vine had advanced from 1 to 2 inches. They were, of course, all killed. The secondary bud had then to throw out, on which some fruit was borne, but of course much later, and, consequently, the fruit failed again to come to its usual character; but on my Delawares, Dianas, seven E. N. Muscadine, (pardon me,) although my vines were strong, I did not have any fruit from the same cause. Nor, aside from the severe amputations, is the vine in the culture and condition from which you and I would expect the best results. Next season we expect many of the vines distributed over the country, to be in bearing. Have we a right to expect it to have its perfection of character the first season? I believe that is not the present theory in regard to new fruits, especially vines, by our best Pomologists. Tell me, is that so? You say, yes. Well, I agree with you; but what say other authorities? I see, from the proceedings of the Cincinnati Horticultural Society, Mr. Sbrings in a few bunches of the Taylor's Bullitt. First fruits; don't say how cultivated; at least they don't report; thinks he has been humbugged.
Society passed a resolution, which it reiterated next meeting, "Taylor's Bullitt unworthy of cultivation!" It may be so; but, gentlemen, I should like to have a little better evidence. Are you not hasty? Did you, or did you not, about the same with the Delaware? "By their fruits ye shall know them," (the grapes I mean,) yet not always by the first crop; possibly they, like some of our young America, may bear a crop of wild oats first, then the good fruit. I might cite another instance on the same grape - here in Ohio - by a distinguished Pomologist, but I forbear. Time will tell whether they hit or missed. I think such judgment about as good as a sharp Yankee's guess.
We thought at first that the Diana was a humbug; like it better since, and better still. Am glad I did not think out in meeting at first. Concord and Hartford have about the same history here. Advice - try, try all things first; be not too hasty in condemning. "Do you mean this as a kind of anticipatory apology for the Cuyahoga? " Not a bit of it. I believe it will fully meet all the reasonable expectations in regard to it from the first; but it is the theory, the rule that should usually be applied to all, and may be needed in regard to it. Another fact. It is undoubtedly true, that some soils and climates are better adapted to some varieties than others. Instance, the Catawba, ten miles inland from the lake, on clayey soil, is "unworthy of cultivation;" it rarely ripens. On the sandy soil along the lake shore it generally ripens; at the islands, on clayey limestone soil, it always ripens, and presents an evidence of quality I have not met with uniformly any where else, and is eminently worthy of cultivation.
In comparing the quality of the Catawbas as grown on the sandy soil along the lake shore, I do not think them equal to those grown in the limestone soil about Cincinnati or the islands; but I think our Isabellas are decidedly better than I have seen from either place; not only better in quality, higher flavor, but much larger in size.
While I have you by the button, I feel like saying a few things about the character to be sought in grapes. We don't want them all for the table; a few for wine; a little wine for the stomach's sake. It is not every good table grape that will be a good wine grape, and vice versa, (you understand Latin.) The flavor of the table grape may be too subtle to be preserved through the process of fermentation, etc.; so we need a stronger aroma - bouquet, (bouquets have aroma, don't they,) to give character to the wine. But what is wine? the fermented juice of the grape. Not always, you say. Isabella and Concord, etc., you say, won't make wine. Well, that beats me. But you are impatient, so 1 will stop. Having had my say, I am all attention. You are too tired listening to talk any. Very well; let us take a ride into the city. No, it is too cold and stormy. Then come back again any time between May and November, except when it is too dusty, and we will take a ride and see the sights, for I hold that no man of good taste like you should be willing to die without having seen Cleveland.
[So now we have an Ex as well as an El Medico. We do not care how much that family increases. In regard to new grapes, it will be several years before a new kind shows what it really is, as grape matters are now conducted. One vine at least ought under all circumstances to be grown for fruit. The Cuyahoga will, no doubt, take its place permanently among good grapes. You have answered all your own questions, and have left us little to do in that way. So it beats you that the Isabella will not make a good pure wine. Well, now, when you light upon a sample of wine made from Isabella juice without any addition whatever, send it along to our sanctum; we'll have a glass case made for it, and send it down to posterity. We have never yet seen such a thing, neither have we seen a wine-maker who would venture to say that it could be done. The Isabella will make a good pure vinegar, but it will not make a good pure wine. You had better not repeat that invitation for a ride, unless you are in downright earnest about it, for some fine morning wo shall be right in your midst. - Ed].