Georgia vineyards prepare for wine grape harvest next month

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Georgia’s wine grape harvest will be a bit behind schedule, but the grapes look good and should produce quality wine.

That was the takeaway from the University of Georgia Extension Viticulture Team’s recent vineyard tour and research and practice discussion. About four dozen Georgia wine grape growers, backyard hobbyists and wine fans joined UGA Cooperative Extension on Aug. 8 for a tour of four north Georgia vineyards.

In its inaugural year, the tour was an opportunity for new and veteran growers to learn how viticulture production practices affect wine quality. Tour participants visited CeNita Vineyards in Cleveland, Georgia; Stonepile Vineyards in Clarkesville, Georgia; and Kaya Vineyard and Winery and Three Sisters Vineyards and Winery, both in Dahlonega, Georgia.
Managers at each vineyard walked the crowd through their fields of wine grape varieties and shared growing strategies and management philosophies.

“It gave the grape farmers and winemakers a chance to talk about what they do and how they do it,” said Cain Hickey, UGA Extension viticulture specialist. “It was a great opportunity for people to network and learn from each other.”

Hickey and his team talked about their research projects at each vineyard. Hickey and his graduate students are running field trials to see how different cultural practices such as pruning technique, trellising method and fruit zone leaf removal may impact disease pressure, crop yield and fruit quality.

While many on the tour were simply interested in learning more about how wine grapes are grown, others came as aspiring vineyard and winery owners, and others yet came on the tour looking for solutions to particular vineyard issues.

Randy Olsen, a Clarkesville-based homeowner with 12 muscadine vines, attended the tour because he wanted to learn better pruning techniques to manage his unruly backyard vineyard.

Others on the tour viewed it as a chance to get a crash course in growing grapes from those with a career’s worth of experience. Rachel Crow, who currently works at the tasting room at Yonah Mountain Vineyards in Cleveland, Georgia, came to the tour because she wants to advance her career in Georgia’s burgeoning winemaking industry.

In the most recent impact study conducted by the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, Georgia’s wine industry had an $81.6 million impact on the state’s economy. The UGA Viticulture Extension Team offers research and on-the-ground support for the state’s grape growers through a network of Extension specialists and county Extension agents across Georgia.

For more information about the UGA Extension Viticulture Team, visit site.extension.uga.edu/viticulture.