Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Book Review #28: A Fool and Forty Acres by Geoff Heinricks

Thinking of starting your own vineyard? Read this engaging account first, by a former journalist who took the plunge.

Subtitled “Conjuring a Vineyard Three Thousand Miles from Burgundy”, this is a delightful account of the author’s experiences growing wine grapes in Prince Edward County of Ontario. The county offers a limestone-based soil typical of certain areas of France, ideal for growing the Pinot Noir grape, which is used to make red wine. Also, the presence of Lake Ontario nearby ensures less severe winters. Heinricks, a Toronto journalist, decided to move to Prince Edward County with his family after realizing vineyard land in the Niagara region had grown too expensive. The author is a bit of a fanatic (the good sort), willing to throw his entire being into his pet project, for example, using a pick and shovel to dig holes in the shallow limestone soil and grafting thousands of rootstock himself for planting.

Heinricks writes well and gives the reader a strong taste of his sense of excitement, including a fair bit of history on the area. He starts each chapter with a quote from local poet Al Purdy (and includes several visits with Purdy). Essentially, however, this is a tale of one’s man’s battle against the elements for love of the grape. It’s all about work and weather: “…a brief span of three or more days can combine the weather of all four seasons.” The obstacles to success are legion: insects, diseases such as phylloxera, pests including voles and robins, and the wind-borne insecticide of his neighbors drifting into his vineyard. But in the end, the reader gets the feeling Heinricks will succeed and has thoroughly enjoyed the struggle.

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