Tweaking our research and demonstration vineyards to help grape growers produce wine grapes in southern Ohio and beyond

By: Gary Gao, Ph.D. Extension Horticulturist and Associate Professor and Ryan Slaughter, Research Assistant
 
The unpredictable weather patterns during the last 2-3 years have been very challenging to the fruit industry in Ohio.  Grape growing is no exception.  Extreme cold temperatures during the “polar vortexes” in 2014 and 2015 killed a significant percentage of grapevines and drastically decreased fruit production in Ohio and throughout the Midwest.  We are actively looking for ways to help grape growers deal with such weather related challenges.
 
Testing cold hardy grape cultivars in our Piketon vineyard is one way.  We planted several super cold hardy varieties from Minnesota in 2015.  We will soon add two more from Minnesota and one from Cornell University.  The new cultivars that we will be adding to our vineyards are Aromella (Cornell), La Crescent (MN), and Marquette (MN).  According to Dr. Bruce Reisch and his colleagues at Cornell University, Aromella is a winter-hardy white wine grape with high potential productivity and excellent aromatic muscat wine characteristics.  Follow this link http://cornell.flintbox.com/public/filedownload/4732/Cornell%20grape%20Aromella%20flyer for more information on the Aromella variety.  Follow this link http://viticulture.hort.iastate.edu/cultivars/La%20Crescent.pdf for more information on La Crescent. Information on the Marquette grape variety is available here: http://viticulture.hort.iastate.edu/cultivars/Marquette.pdf.
 
We will also be installing a high tunnel for wine grape production research.  Growing grapes in high tunnels is not necessarily a brand new concept.  Follow this link   http://www.winesandvines.com/template.cfm?section=features&content=111842 for more information on this subject.  Wine grape production in high tunnels can make sense on a small scale, especially if growing grapes for estate wines.  We will use an old high tunnel for this project.  The cultivars we will test are Cabernet Franc and Regent.  Hopefully, this small demonstration vineyard will yield big findings!
 
We would like to extend our sincere appreciation for a grant from the Ohio Grape Industry Program.  Follow this link http://www.tasteohiowines.com/ for more information on Ohio wines.  We look forward to seeing many of you at our workshops and field nights at OSU South Centers in Piketon!