January 22nd, 2007
COLUMBIA, MO. – Beginners as well as advanced grape growers will enjoy the expanded Midwest Grape and Wine Conference Feb. 3-5 at Tan-Tar-A resort at the Lake of the Ozarks.
For the first time, The Missouri Vintner’s Association has welcomed the Missouri Grape Growers Association in co-hosting the annual conference where wine professionals, grape growers and connoisseurs gather each year to learn more about grape growing and winemaking in Missouri.
The 2007 conference offers educational sessions geared for veteran viticulturists as well as novices considering getting into grape production. The three-day event features viticulture, enology and marketing sessions and one of the largest wine business trade shows in the Midwest.
The conference ends at 7 p.m. Feb. 5 with a six-course gourmet banquet featuring some of the state’s finest wines. “This year we will have one whole day of sessions dedicated to the basics of grape production,” said Andy Allen, extension viticulturist with MU’s Institute for Continental Climate Viticulture and Enology (ICCVE).
That session, “Beginning Viticulture,” is from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Feb. 3. “Whether you are just thinking about planting grapevines or if you already have some in the ground but aren’t sure what you might have done right or wrong, this session will have something for you,” Allen said.
“We receive many calls and hear from folks who have acreage and who think that a vineyard would be a fun project. This session will hopefully help them decide whether grape production is really something they want to get involved in. This is a session the grape industry has been requesting for several years.”
A concurrent session, aimed at experienced grape growers, will cover the latest research and practices for vineyard irrigation management.
Justin Morris, professor and director of the Institute of Food Science and Engineering at the University of Arkansas and collaborator on several projects with the ICCVE, will present wines from research conducted by the institute.
“These new varieties will help raise the bar for fruit production and for wine quality from the Midwest region,” Allen said. ICCVE research has involved evaluation of more than a dozen new varieties included in Morris’ wine trials. “We’re anxious, as are wineries around the region, to see how the wines from those trials are turning out. This will be our first time to taste many of them.”
Jim Anderson, head of the wine and grape program for the Missouri Department of Agriculture, is looking forward to opening the conference this year to beginning grape growers and those just curious about the industry. “We have a lot of people who call who are thinking about getting into grape growing,” he said. “This is a chance for those people to come and learn a few things. They can even attend some of the advanced sessions and go to the trade show.”
Anderson said breaking into the grape-growing industry isn’t cheap and estimated the cost at between $5,000 and $15,000 an acre. Growers don’t experience full production until 3-5 years after planting. “So don’t quit your day job,” Anderson said. “Most growers start small and grow as their market grows.”
There are 63 wineries in Missouri and more than 1,200 acres of grapes, Anderson said. “Right now, we grow about 13 different varieties in the state commercially,” he said. Norton red wine is Missouri’s flagship wine. “We have really focused on the Norton grape, and it has made Missouri unique in the United States wine industry.”