Conference offers tools to make better Ohio wines

With a steady increase in the number of Ohio wineries and the gallons of wine produced every year, the focus of this year’s Ohio Grape and Wine conference is making those wines taste even better.

“Consumers are demanding high-quality and reasonably-priced wines now more than ever,” said Imed Dami, an Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) professor in grape growing and one of the conference’s organizers.

“Quality wines are not a luxury or the exception anymore, but rather the expectation,” said Dami, an Ohio State University Extension specialist. The speakers at the conference Feb. 19-20 in Dublin, Ohio, will address every step of the process from grape planting to bottling: treating the soil, growing and training vines, fending off diseases and pests, as well as managing the fermentation process.

Among the conference offerings is a crash course in the basics of growing grapes and producing red or white wines for anyone interested in getting started. More and more Ohioans are. Wineries in the state grew to 265 in 2016 from 175 in 2012, and the state’s annual wine production has nearly doubled since 2012, according to a state report published by the Ohio Grape Industries Committee (OGIC).

Experts from CFAES, which co-sponsors the event with OGIC, will address the various aspects of growing grapes and wine making.

To produce quality Ohio wines, the state needs to grow more of its own grapes. And in order to do that, growers need to learn ways to contend with the state’s sometimes harsh winters, as well as fend off the diseases and insects that prey upon vines.

For grape growers interested in ensuring that they apply pesticides in the most effective way, one talk at the upcoming grape and wine conference will address that issue.

It is critical to calibrate a pesticide sprayer regularly to ensure it is putting out the correct amount of chemicals per acre that’s needed – no more, no less – to encourage the highest grape yields, said Erdal Ozkan, a CFAES agricultural engineering professor who will present a talk on pesticide use at the conference.

“The biggest mistake people make is they probably don’t know how much pesticide they’re applying,” he said.

It is important for farmers to select the right size and type of nozzles for the sprayer and to ensure the nozzles are the correct distance from the target, Ozkan said. The person operating the sprayer must drive at the proper travel speed while spraying. All of these factors affect how much pesticide is applied and could impact the quality and quantity of the grapes produced, he said.

In addition to CFAES specialists, featured speakers at the conference will include:

  • Dr. Markus Keller, professor of viticulture at Washington State University, who will discuss water and grape ripening, as well as grapes’ winter hardiness.
  • Lee Lutes, head winemaker at Black Star Farms in Michigan, who will discuss how to authenticate a fringe, but emerging wine region.
  • Misha T. Kwasniewski, an assistant research professor and enology program leader at the University of Missouri, who will discuss steps to saving a wine vintage.

The grape and wine conference will be held at the Embassy Suites Columbus-Dublin, 5100 Upper Metro Place, Dublin. Full conference registration costs $225. Additional options are available for partial registration. For a complete agenda and registration details, including a printable, mailable registration form, visit Buckeye Appellation, the official website of the Ohio State Grape-Wine Team.

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One comment

  1. Wine kills human pathogens and has no history of food safety issues, and since licensing passed in a 2009 budget bill (by surprise) we have been subject to food processing licensing and regulation by the Ohio Department of Agriculture. This is duplicate of licensing and regulation as provided in Ohio liquor codes. Many other states exempt from this sort of duplicate licensing and regulation. Ohio’s regulation is superfluous, unnecessary, duplicate and also discriminates against Ohio wineries by wineries from out of state that are not subject to the same food processing licensing and regulatory costs that sell wholesale in Ohio. As a traditional artisan winemaker that values microbial diversity in the winery environment I also find the regulation is in direct opposition to my winemaking principles. Search online and FB for FreeTheWineries .

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