It is with a great deal of hesitation I undertake to write a book about Grapes, a subject which has been, and still is, elucidated every day; and about which we have already several works, which no doubt are more learned, more elaborate, than anything I may produce. But the subject is of such vast importance, and the area suitable for grape culture so large, the diversity of soil and climate so great, that I may be pardoned if I still think that I could be of some use to the beginner; it is for them, and not for my brethren of the craft more learned than I am, that I write. If they can learn anything from the plain talk of a practical worker, to help them along in the good work, I am well repaid.
Another object I have in view is to make grape growing as easy as possible; and I may be pardoned if I say that, in my opinion, it is a defect in all books we have on grape culture, that the manner of preparing the soil, training, etc., are on too costly a plan to be followed by men of little means. If we are first to trench and prepare the soil, at a cost of about $300 per acre, and then pay $200 more for trellis, labor, etc., the poor man, he who must work for a living, can not afford to raise grapes. And yet it is from the ranks of these sturdy sons of toil that I would gain
my recruits for that peaceful army whose sword is the pruning-hook; it is from their honest, hard-working hands I expect the grandest results. He who has already wealth enough at command can of course afford to raise grapes with bone-dust, ashes, and all the fertilizers. He can walk around and give his orders, making grape culture an elegant pastime for his leisure hours, as well as a source of profit. But, being one of the first class myself, I had to fight my way up through untold difficulties from the lowest round of the ladder; had to gain what knowledge I possess from dear experience, and can therefore sympathize with those who must commence without means. It is my earnest desire to save them some of the losses which I had to suffer, to lighten their toil by a little plain advice. If I can succeed in this, my object is accomplished.
In nearly all our books on grape culture I notice another defect, especially in those published in the East; it is, that they contain a great deal of good advice about grape culture, but very little about wine-making, and the treatment of wine in the cellar. For us here at the West this is an allimportant point, and even our Eastern friends, if they continue to plant grapes at the rate they have done for the last few years, will soon glut the market, and will be forced to make them into wine. I shall therefore try to give such simple instructions about wine-making and its
management as will enable every one to make a good saleable and drinkable wine, better than nine-tenths of the foreign wines, which are now sold at two to three dollars per bottle. I firmly believe that this continent is destined to be the greatest wine-producing country in the world; and that the time is not far distant when wine, the most wholesome and purest of all stimulating drinks, will be within the reach of the common laborer, and take the place of the noxious and poisonous liquors which are now the curse of so many of our laboring men, and have blighted the happiness of so many homes. Pure light wine I consider the best temperance agent; but as long as bad whisky and brandy continue to be the common drink of its citizens we can not hope to accomplish a thorough reform; for human nature seems to crave and need a stimulant. Let us then try to supply the most innocent and healthy one, the exhilarating juice of the grape.
I have also endeavored throughout to give plain facts, to substantiate with plain figures all I assert; and in no case have I allowed fancy to roam in idle speculations which cannot be demonstrated in practice. I do not pretend that my effort is “the most comprehensive and practical essay on the grape,” as some of our friends call their productions, but I can claim for it strict adherence to truth and actual results.
I have not thought it necessary to give the botanical description of the grape-vine, and the process of hybridizing, etc.; this has already been so well and thoroughly done by my friend FULLER, that I can do no better than refer the scientific reader to his book. I am writing more for the practical farmer, and would rather fill what I think a vacancy, than repeat what has been so well said by others.
With these few remarks, which I thought due to the public and myself, I leave it to you, brother-winegrowers, to say whether or not I have accomplished my task. To all and every one who plants a single vine I would extend the hand of good fellowship, for he is a laborer in the great work to cover this glorious land of the free with smiling vineyards, and to make its barren spots flow with noble grape juice, one of the best gifts of an all-bountiful Creator. All hail to
you, I greet you from Free Missouri.