Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Newspapers Report Growing a Vineyard Is Becoming More Popular

The Delmarva Daily Times MD
Feb 4, 2007
Vineyards are a growing trend
By Katherine Crowell

SALISBURY -- People tend to envision vineyards as romantic places with rolling hills and grapes galore, rather than the flat, wet topography of the Lower Shore.

However, vineyard planting is a growing trend here, said Laura Hunsberger, educator for the Worcester County Office of the Maryland Cooperative Extension, a statewide non-formal educational system within the college of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

"It's a lot of fun," said Allen resident Tom Shelton who's been growing grapes for wine since 1999 and hopes to expand his opera-

tion to about 10 acres and open a winery soon. "It's a challenge to see if you can make wine that's good."

To satisfy an increasing demand for education on starting up wineries, the Worcester County extension office is hosting a workshop for new grape growers on Feb. 15. The registration deadline is Saturday.

The workshop will cover everything from site preparation, equipment, supplies, grape choices, pest control and management, cultural practices for harvesting and economics, Hunsberger said. The initial investment is about $10,000 per acre, she said.

"This is geared at new grape growers with no agricultural background at all," Hunsberger said. "Some people think its very romantic and something they can do on a small acreage. People often under estimate how much hard work it takes."

Shelton, who intends to produce 27,000 bottles annually, said that while the work is tedious and time consuming, it is definitely rewarding.

"My advice is don't get into it unless you got enough time to do it properly," Shelton said. "I was not sure you could grow grapes in this area that would make excellent wine. But now I believe."

Of the 27 licensed wineries in the state, three are operating on the Eastern Shore and several more are in the development phase, said Kevin Atticks, executive director of the Maryland Wineries Association. The Eastern Shore vineyards are located in Easton, St. Michaels and Suldersville. Boordy Vineyards, which started planting in Baltimore County in 1945, is the oldest winery in the state.

"We're trying to find another crop for tobacco growers to grow," Hunsberger said. "Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore have kind of been neglected in the grape world, but there's a lot of interest."

Vineyards grow on every type of topography, Atticks said. It's a matter of figuring out which grapes grow best, he said. A range of grape varieties have already proven successful on the Lower Shore, he said. Of those, Chardonnay, Chambourcin, Vidal and Cabernet Franc all grow well on the Lower Shore and throughout Maryland, he said.

He said the state needs more grape growers because of a high demand for local wines.

"I think what's happened is everywhere wine as a product has become much more popular," he said. "What we've found is that when that's the case, there's always a movement to buy local. That's where our wineries capitalize. It's a very different product than wine from California. That's why people, if it's good, will buy cases of it."

kcrowell@dmg.gannett.com