Saturday, March 01, 2008

The Grape Sessions - Jamming with the Cornell Extension Guys

I returned to the scene of the crime - Scared Grape. That's the story where we went to our first Cornell sponosored sessions and they tried to scare us out of growing grapes.

Just yesterday I attended the 2008 Hudson Valley Commercial Fruit Grower's School run by the Hudson Valley Cornell University Cooperative Extension and the Hudson Valley Wine Grower's Association. The one in the same event.

The school runs all week, but "the Grape Sessions" were on Friday. And most of the winegrowers made appearances during different parts of the day. Mike Migliore from Whitecliff Vineyards, Susan Wine and Bob Ransom from Rivendell, Ceasar was there from Brotherhood, Mr. Graziano from Millbrook, John Bruno from Oak Summit, Benmarl's winemaker Kristop Brown, Rick Lewit from Alison Vineyards, Stephen Osborn from Stoutridge, Doug Glorie from Glorie Vineyards, and many others.

And of course the Cornell guys were there: Steve Hoying and John Huddleson, Dr. Tim Martinson, and Steve Lerch as well as the ever present Steve McKay.

As always its an informative group. One wonders why he or she is attending, thinking they know how to run their vineyards, and always comes away having learned something new. At least that's what the old timers say. I'm a newbie and I find it all fascinating. And it all scares the hell out of me everytime!

Planting and growing a vineyard is the hardest part of running the winery. It always seems a mircle we get fruit at the end of a season. Each year we look out at the field and wonder what disaster will befall us this season. Every year is a harrowing novel of "man versus nature," in which we luckily bumble through, and turn out great in the end. But the school in february always scares the heck out of me.

The Cornell folks are wonderful. They tell us about recent developments, hyrbrids, and insect updates. This year there was a seminar on cutting buds in the vineyards to take an early gage on vineyard health before pruning begins. Wayne Wilcox was there talking about leaf roll and necrosis. Andy Farmer was telling about how to plant individual plants in a vineyard. John Huddleson is one of the best friends of the Hudson Valley folks, and he was there extolling us with the virtues of several grapes. He and Steve Lerch were great in talking about the newest varieties coming out of the experimental station. Each man took some good natured ribbing.

It was a wonderful day, as much as any day spent in a Holiday Inn conference room can be. And of course, each session within the session makes you wonder why you got into this at all. It makes you want to look in the mirror as say to yourself, "PT Barnum said there was one of me born every minute."

And of course, we ended the day with the Hudson Valley Wine and Grape Association hosting a tasting of Hudson Valley Heritage wines and new hybrids. A lovely way to end the day.

We comisserated, laughed, and tried to tell each other it will be a good year. And I think we all truly believe it will be. After all, if you get into this business, it's only because you're an unrepentant, blinders-on, optimist.