By Devon Yarbrough
AUGUSTA, Mo. — It all started 10,000 years ago when the last continental glacier stopped in what is now known as Augusta, Missouri. By bringing fine silt with it, the glacier made the soil in Augusta the perfect place for wine grapes. Augusta Winery Owner, Tony Kooyumjian, is circling back to that beginning by focusing on healthy soil for breeding grapes with as little intervention as possible.
Kooyumjian, drove up a steep hill of endless trellis rows keeping the grape vines orderly, unlike the grasses below them. Kooyumjian explained they planned to let the grass clippings add to the organic matter at the vine roots. Henbit, a purple weed, would also loosen the soil to help the vines get nutrients.
According to Penn State College of Agriculture Sciences, grapevines need several nutrients, which can be derived from the soil or fertilizers. Some of the key nutrients that come from the soil are nitrogen, phosphorous and sulfur. Soil testing and pre-plant testing is typically done every 3 to 5 years. However, Kooyumjian says they test their grapes before harvest every winter at the University of Missouri enology lab to review the plant components.
The lab tests for macronutrients, micronutrients, pH, organic matter and base saturation. The winery uses these lab results partly to see how much minerals need to be placed back into the soil. Kooyumjian says they tend to replace the sulfur and phosphorous every year and add pomace or winery waste, such as grape skins and seeds, to the soil to improve nitrogen, amino acids and other goodies.
Kooyumjian says that quality is important to the winery and although soil is only a part of the winemaking process, it is crucial to producing the healthy grapes that lead to great wines.