Local Family Enjoys Thriving Vineyard
“They taste so much better coming out of your own garden,” said Wende Bergmeier, owner and manager of Cambrian Ridge Vineyard, located just outside of Auburn.
The Mark and Wende Bergmeier planted their first acre of 612 vines in 2009. “We’ve always had an acreage and wanted to do something with it,” said Wende Bergmeier. The couple and their two daughters manufactured their own equipment and trellises. The trellises must hold a lot of weight, and often the end posts bend to the collective weight of the grape vines. In addition to harvesting grapes and making wine for friends and family, they sell their products to a winery in Ashland, Nebraska called Cellar 426. The Bergmeiers estimate a yield of three tons this year.
Grow Three Grape Varieties
Cambrian Ridge Vineyard includes three kinds of grapes, chosen specifically for the climate in Southeast Nebraska: Crimson Cabernet, Traminette, Chambourcin. Cambrian Ridge is the first vineyard to grow Crimson Cabernet in Nebraska. Traminette is a white grape that has superior wine quality. Chambourcin was the first type of grape planted, and wines made from Chambourcin grapes go well with dark chocolate desserts.
The heat this summer has helped the grapes. Because of the low humidity, there has been less mold. Grapes do not need to be watered, so the heat doesn’t adversely affect them.
Vineyards Are Year-Round Job
Vineyards require attention all year long. In the spring, the Bergmeiers cluster thin the grape vines, a process which involves reducing the number of grape clusters each shoot produces. In the summer, the plants must be monitored and sprayed for diseases, mold, and pests. In the fall, grapes are harvested. After the winter has caused the plants to become dormant, the Bergmeiers trim back most of each plant because grapes only grow on new wood.
The Bergmeiers aren’t alone in all their work, however. They have attended workshops at the Kimmel Research Center in Nebraska City about trellises, pruning, pesticides, and other topics. The Kimmel Research Center sends people to look over the local vineyard and ensure everything is running smoothly. Vaughn Hammond is the extension agent helping them there. The Bergmeiers also have a membership with the Nebraska Wineries and Grape Growers Association. They also hire area residents to help with harvesting.
Wende Bergmeier is currently working towards a Master’s Degree in business, which will culminate in creating a business plan for a small winery. The Bergmeiers may put this plan into effect, but they have not made a definite decision yet.