Curing Vineyard Blindness

As I was perusing the most recent copy of one of the trade magazines that I regularly read, an article written by one of our region’s winemakers caught my eye. He was describing a malady that he called “cellar blindness” (or “Subterranean Vino-macular Degeneration” — you need a sexy name for a disease to be taken seriously these days), which is basically the tendency for a winemaker to become “blind” to problems with his or her own wines as a result of constant exposure to them. He discovered this affliction when some wine judges offered some comments regarding a wine he had brought to a tasting — comments regarding a defect that he had never tasted himself. Setting his pride aside, he tasted other wines of that same variety from other areas and discovered that they had a point.

After reading his account of cellar blindness, I started to wonder if the same sort of phenomenon can be found in grape growers and vineyard managers (and viticulturists). I have come to the conclusion that there is a mutant strain of this disease that often afflicts those of us involved in vineyards. Let’s call it “vineyard blindness” — the inability to see the problems or opportunities for improvement in our own vineyards, even though we are in them every day.

So what is the “cure” for vineyard blindness? Laser surgery? Eating more carrots? Similar to this winemaker’s answer to cellar blindness, I think exposure to other examples of what you are doing is one of the best ways to combat this problem. For grape growers, this means getting out of your own vineyard and visiting other growers and vineyard managers, both in your own region and, perhaps even more importantly, in other grape growing regions.

I recently returned from a trip to Brazil to speak at its national grape and wine congress, and had the opportunity to visit with some growers, winemakers, and researchers to learn about their industry for several days afterwards. Brazil produces a lot of grape juice, both for consumption within the country and for export, and I wanted to learn more about their production, as it competes with juices made from Concord grapes grown in New York and other areas of the U.S.

In the U.S., most grape juice (real grape juice, I mean) is made primarily with Concord grapes. In Brazil, however, they use a number of different varieties, including Concord, Isabella, Ives, and some new varieties developed by their agricultural research agency to make various blends of juice — similar to what winemakers do with wine varieties. Different producers can blend these varieties to vary characteristics such as color, flavor, and even antioxidant content. Is there something in this notion that a U.S. juice producer could use to its advantage if we had a few more varieties to choose from?

Close To Home

Visiting vineyards and wineries in another country can be a wonderful experience, and can often be a great way to compare yourself to some real “benchmark” regions, like Riesling in Germany, Pinot Noir or Chardonnay in Burgundy, or Sangiovese in Italy. But with the current state of our economy, travel to faraway places is probably not as feasible for many people right now. This doesn’t mean, however, that there still aren’t opportunities to treat a case of vineyard blindness closer to home.

With wine being produced in all 50 states now, and with most of those states having at least some vineyard development associated with those wineries, there are plenty of chances for growers to see different practices and get new ideas from colleagues in other regions. If you grow grapes in the Midwest, have you ever taken the time to visit some of the vineyards in other nearby states? Growers in places like Missouri, Indiana, and Minnesota are doing some really interesting things with hybrid varieties like Vidal Blanc, Chambourcin, Chardonel, Lacrescent, and Traminette in their vineyards. If you grow Riesling, Chardonnay, or Cabernet Franc, you could maybe gain some valuable insights by visiting vineyards in New York, Michigan, Virginia, or Ohio. Maybe somebody there has dealt with the same problem in their vineyard as you have struggled with and perhaps have just learned to live with.

It certainly can be difficult to find the time to make these kinds of trips, especially during the busy growing season when there is always so much to do. And I know our country’s current economic situation may not inspire a whole lot of confidence to spend the money to do so, either. But the chance to see what others are doing in their vineyards — to alleviate “vineyard blindness” and to possibly improve your vineyard’s quality or productivity — may well be worth it.

Leave a Reply

Grapes Stories

GrapesMichigan Conference Focuses On Impact Of Climate Change In Grapes
August 22, 2014
Experts from Michigan State University, Ohio State University, and Northwestern Michigan College to discuss Polar Vortex, technology, and unmanned systems at one-day conference. Read More
GrapesNew York Grape Grower Survey Reveals Huge Losses
August 22, 2014
Cornell Cooperative Extension publishes results of a grower poll of winter injury damage. Read More
GrapesOregon Anticipates Large Grape Harvest
August 22, 2014
Growers keep fingers crossed that late-season rainfall doesn’t ruin crop. Read More
GrapesFarmers Fresh Fruit Company Integrates QR Code Into Clamshell
August 22, 2014
Design allows consumers to access online information about variety, nutritional information, etc. Read More
GrapesSummer Control Options For Downy Mildew
August 8, 2014
Cornell researcher recommends several methods to combat epidemics. Read More
GrapesCornell Cooperative Extension Adds New Regional Fruit Specialist
August 8, 2014
Anna Wallis joins Eastern New York commercial horticulture program. Read More
GrapesPlastic Rain Covers Can Affect Canopy Microclimate And Fruit Quality
August 2, 2014
In studies, it appears green covers may delay fruit ripening and both covers may provide some protection from postharvest rots. . Read More

The Latest

GrapesEarthquake Shakes Up Napa Wine Industry
August 25, 2014
Sunday’s early morning quake was centered just six miles from the city of Napa. Read More
GrapesMichigan Conference Focuses On Impact Of Climate Change…
August 22, 2014
Experts from Michigan State University, Ohio State University, and Northwestern Michigan College to discuss Polar Vortex, technology, and unmanned systems at one-day conference. Read More
GrapesNew York Grape Grower Survey Reveals Huge Losses
August 22, 2014
Cornell Cooperative Extension publishes results of a grower poll of winter injury damage. Read More
GrapesOregon Anticipates Large Grape Harvest
August 22, 2014
Growers keep fingers crossed that late-season rainfall doesn’t ruin crop. Read More
GrapesFarmers Fresh Fruit Company Integrates QR Code Into Cla…
August 22, 2014
Design allows consumers to access online information about variety, nutritional information, etc. Read More
GrapesNew York State Assists Grape Growers Hit By Harsh Winte…
August 19, 2014
State to open winegrape market to grapes grown outside the state. Read More
GrapesSummer Control Options For Downy Mildew
August 8, 2014
Cornell researcher recommends several methods to combat epidemics. Read More
GrapesCornell Cooperative Extension Adds New Regional Fruit S…
August 8, 2014
Anna Wallis joins Eastern New York commercial horticulture program. Read More
Disease ControlGrape Disease Bill Presented To California Governor
August 8, 2014
Grower association backs reauthorization of Pierce’s Disease Control Program. Read More
GrapesPlastic Rain Covers Can Affect Canopy Microclimate And …
August 2, 2014
In studies, it appears green covers may delay fruit ripening and both covers may provide some protection from postharvest rots. . Read More
Disease ControlDowny Mildew Hits Finger Lakes Grapes
July 29, 2014
Growers also seeing spike in botrytis infections, vine collapses during growing season. Read More
Apples & PearsAn Awakening To The Value Of Biopesticides [Opinion]
July 25, 2014
With the entry of major suppliers into the biopesticide arena, whether or not biopesticides work is no longer the question. Now, people want to understand how they work. Read More
Apples & PearsPGRs: The Overlooked Piece Of The Biopesticides Puzzle
July 25, 2014
Yield and quality can be as important to growers as crop protection. Read More
FruitsFarmers Fresh Fruit Company Launches New Website
July 21, 2014
New website uses social media and QR codes to drive traffic. Read More
FruitsNew York Grape Growers Asked To Fill Out Winter Injury …
July 7, 2014
Results to impact purchasing provisions of New York Farm Winery Act. Read More
Crop ProtectionEuropean Grapevine Moth Found In Sonoma County, CA
July 3, 2014
Only a single male was found; a search for eggs and larvae was negative. Read More
FruitsCalifornia Winegrowers Garner Prestigious Awards
July 1, 2014
The Ledbetter family, which owns and operates Vino Farms, named top grower; Richard Kheen, an industry pioneer, named top leader. Read More
FruitsCalifornia Winegrowers Lose Court Battle Over Frost Pro…
June 19, 2014
North Coast growers lose ability to divert river water to protect vines from frost. Read More