Every day on my drives through the pastoral landscape of Adams County, Illinois, I pass a peculiar sight. A fenced vineyard, about an acre of grapevines, is growing at a crossroads, right across from an electrical transformer station and surrounded otherwise by corn and soybean fields. A high fence surrounds the vineyard and the vines are swathed in white plastic mesh, presumably some sort of shade-cloth.
This area isn’t ideal for grape-growing, although the wild species thrive. I know of a couple of local grape-growers who sell their harvest to small commercial wineries, but it’s a labor of love for these viticulturalists — it can’t be too profitable. There’s a reason that corn, cattle, and swine predominate in this area.
So who planted this vineyard? Is it a commercial operation? My curiosity was aroused mightily. Yesterday I stopped for a closer look.
The grapes seem to be dark-purple in color, verging on black. I fear I will be led into temptation before long — with any luck I will be forgiven my trespasses. I want to taste those grapes! The coloration of the fruit makes me suspect that they might be Concord-family table grapes, a very hardy group of varieties which grow well here. Wine grapes are finicky and don’t like the high summer humidity, which encourages fungus diseases.
A closer look at one of the vines, which seemed to be well-laden with fruit:
The geometry of the plastic mesh gives an odd appearance to the vines. I don’t think I’ve ever seen shade-cloth used on grapevines, but what do I know!
The next time I stop there I’ll look for a gate, or if necessary scale the fence. Maybe I’ll run into a local who can tell me about the vineyard. Maybe I’ll get kicked out!