July 11, 2008
Contacts: Willsboro Conference: Kevin Iungerman, 518-885-8995
Watertown Conference: Sue Gwise, 315-788-8450

Wine & Grape Industry Blossoming Across Northern New York

A couple starting Lewis County's first winery, a young man searching for funds to establish his vineyard, members of the Lake Champlain Grape Growers Association, and aspiring vintners from Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties attended the Cold Climate Viticulture: Wines and Vines in the North Country Conferences held in early June.

Conference organizer and Senior Viticulture Extension Associate Dr. Timothy E. Martinson with the Cornell University New York Statewide Viticulture Extension Program, says, �The North Country has seen a burgeoning interest in growing grapes for wine. The cold-tolerant hybrid grape varieties that are adapting well to Northern New York soils, climate and growing conditions are varieties that grow where more traditional varieties would not survive the winters.�

Martinson estimates that 30 acres of cold-hardy grapes have been planted in western NNY counties (Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence) over the past five years. The eastern NNY region has approximately 10-15 acres in grapes.

Conference Timing Perfect for Aspiring Winemakers
This spring Natalie Peck and Colin Read planted 1,400 vines of the Marquette variety of cold-hardy wine grapes at their North Star Vineyards in Mooers, NY (northern Clinton County).

�We are novices with a lot to learn. We had purchased our grapes and been preparing the land, so the timing of the Wines and Vines conference was perfect for us. We are looking to expand our vineyard each year, adding different varieties,� Peck says.

Peck says she was interested in conference speakers talking about pest control and how having a vineyard winery brings a higher economic return. She enjoyed the field trip to the 300-vine, 25-variety Cold Hardy Wine Grape Cultivar Trial at the Cornell E.V. Baker Agricultural Research Farm at Willsboro. The trial there has had the support of the Cornell Cooperative Extension Northeast New York Commercial Fruit Program, New York State Senator Elizabeth O�C. Little, Northern New York Agricultural Development Program, New York Farm Viability Institute, and numerous regional volunteer growers.

�I was happy to see our variety growing at Willsboro and to see ideas for how we might trellis our vines. The field trip and the conference also provided the opportunity to network with a community of grape growers willing to share their knowledge and experiences,� Peck says.

Kevin A. Iungerman of the Cornell Northeast NY Commercial Fruit Program and project leader for the Willsboro grape trials, says, �This regional research is producing rare side-by-side vine performance data based on field comparisons right here in the region. The trials also provide regional grape enthusiasts with the opportunity to learn about vineyard management and winemaking by seeing and doing.�
At the conference, Peck joined the Lake Champlain Grape Growers Association, which has 50-some members from New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Quebec.

NNY Region Provides Unique Cold-Hardy Marketing Opportunity
Lake Champlain Grape Growers Association member Rob McDowell says cold-hardy grapes offer a marketing advantage to the newly developing wine industry in northern New York.

�The key point about wines made from cold hardy grapes is that because they don't have the years of suffocating tradition that dictate marketable wine styles and flavors. The winemaker is free to create wines that are expressive of the inherent flavors of the grapes and the local melange of soil, sun, and climate,� McDowell says.

Lake Champlain Grape Growers Association member Kathryn Reinhardt of Willsboro, NY, says, �Those of us experimenting with grape growing in the Adirondacks are starting with the concept of planting varieties that will survive and thrive here and are not trying to grow varieties that are best grown in warmer, dryer, longer-growing climates. Once we succeed with wine making, I'm sure the public will enjoy unique and special wines from a unique region of northern New York.�

Establishing Young Vineyard in Jefferson County
Scott Carpenter of Philadelphia, NY, was among those with young vineyards at the Watertown wines conference. Three years ago Scott and his dad Everett planted five apple trees, some raspberries, blueberries, and 28 grapevines � 25 of which are still growing. Even though his father has since died, Scott is looking to keep the vineyard going. Start-up cost and production information presented at the Wines and Vines conference was helpful to the aspiring grower.

�I am searching for funding to help cover the costs to truly establish the vineyard. We would like to sell our grapes � we have five varieties already - to a winery already making wine. The conference provided information on new varieties we might try, but we have to find funding first,� Carpenter says.

Iungerman says, �Generally, we estimate $6,000 to $10,000 per acre to start a vineyard depending on a number of variables, including employed labor, trellis supports, etcera.�

Lewis County�s First Winery Developing
In Lewis County, Mike and Sue Maring are establishing a large-scale vineyard and the county�s first winery - Tug Hill Vineyards. The 2700 plants of 10 varieties of table and wine grapes they planted in 2007 did well and this past spring they added another 2,500 plants on their 40 acres on the well-traveled Route 12 between Copenhagen and Lowville.

�We are building a banquet and event center that will include a tasting room and wine store featuring wines from elsewhere in New York State to start until we are making our own wines,� says Sue.

The Marings have also planted blueberries and six kinds of raspberries for u-pick. They estimate their investment in this new agricultural enterprise at more than $1 million.

�The speakers at the wine conference reinforced our thoughts on what we need to do to establish this new enterprise. Our business plan projections are on track with the comments made by enologist Chris Gerling,� Sue says.

Gerling is the new Statewide Enology Extension Associate in the Department of Food Science and Technology at the NYS Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, NY.

The Watertown conference also included a tour at Yellow Barn Winery, Sackets Harbor, NY.

Learn More about Growing Grapes in NNY
To learn more about cold-hardy grape research in northern New York, go online to the www.nnyagdev.org website of the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program � the farmer-driven research, education, outreach and small grants program has funded grapes research in the NNY region. # # #