Iowa grape growers and winemakers will be among those attending a field day this Saturday (June 19) at the University of Nebraska’s Kimmel Research and Extension Center near Nebraska City. They’ll see growing sites, learn about varieties, and get details on on viticulture , the cultivating of wine grapes. Paul Read from UNL’s agronomy and horticulture department says there’s so much interest, he has a mailing list of 900 people for his grape-growing information. He says viticulture — the growing of wine grapes — is a viable alternative farming option. The grapes can be grown to the levels of sugar content and other parameters used to determine high quality, in other parts of the Midwest as well. Read says growers here won’t cultivate the same varieties of grapes they grow in California, New York or France. They’re mostly hybrid varieties and some can be made into high-quality wines even though they aren’t the same as well-known kinds from other parts of the world. Read says famous lines of wine grapes like Cabernet, merlot and chardonnay don’t do well in our climate. He has Chardonnay, Merlot, and other vinifera grapes growing in trial plots at the research farm, but those common “classic variety” wine grapes don’t do as well as the newer varieties. The vineyard management tips will include site selection for planting a vineyard. A good site would have a slope so there’s “air drainage” and have deep soil, as grapes are so deep-rooted, some have been found with roots 30 feet down into the soil. That “air drainage” helps prevent frost pockets from damaging vines, which are sensitive to cold during their growing season. He adds the grapes are high quality and make good wines. The wineries become a destination for travelers, encouraging “agro-tourism,” and they’re good enough in quality that the tourists aren’t just buying the wine as a curiosity or a souvenir. After the field day sessions, participants will visit Arbor Trails Winery, the state’s newest and its only cooperative winery. The June 19 field day is for grape growers from Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and South Dakota.
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