Tips To Cure 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.

Topics: ,

Leave a Reply

Grapes Stories
Grapes
February 17, 2017
Washington Organization Rebrands Itself
Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers unveils new identity at convention, now known as Washington Winegrowers Association. Read More
Grapes
February 14, 2017
2016 California Winegrape Crush Up 9%
Prices were up 12%, and red wine grapes continue to gain on white wine grapes in popularity, though ‘Chardonnay’ remained king. Read More
Grapes
January 30, 2017
Is the Intelligent Vineyard the Future of Winegrape Growing?
In the high desert of Arizona grows the world’s biggest viticulture laboratory. Read More
Grapes
January 30, 2017
Future Herbicide Injury Concerns Winegrape Growers
While new formulas of herbicides are released in conjunction with herbicide-tolerant corn, cotton, and soybean varieties to reduce risk of drift and crop injury, winegrape growers worry some row crop farmers will opt for older formulations. Read More
Grapes
January 27, 2017
How to Match the Fence to Your Vineyard
Follow these tips to determine how much fence you’ll need. Read More
Grapes
January 20, 2017
Live Reports on the State of the Wine Industry
The Unified Wine & Grape Symposium, by far the nation’s largest winegrape conference, is happening this week in Sacramento, CA. Read More
Grapes
January 19, 2017
U.S. Challenges Canadian Trade Measures Allege Discrimination against U.S. Wine
Trade enforcement action challenges British Columbia regulations that unfairly exclude U.S. wine from grocery store shelves. Read More
Grapes
January 6, 2017
Meet Wendy Brannen, New Executive Director of the Lodi Winegrape Commission
Commodity association veteran believes she has found a home with the Lodi Winegrape Commission. Read More
Grapes
January 5, 2017
There are Many Factors Affecting Table Grapes
The loss of table grape berries from their pedicels, or cap stems, during packing, shipping, postharvest storage, or at the Read More
Grapes
January 4, 2017
Grape Growers Say Season Affected by Weather, Water, and Regulation Woes
Grape growers see challenges this past growing season. Read More
Grapes
January 3, 2017
Vine Enthusiasts Preserve Historic Vineyards
It’s not just agribusiness to a group of old vine enthusiasts who seek to preserve a part of California winegrape history. Read More
Grapes
December 29, 2016
University of Arkansas Debuts New Winegrape Varieties
Twenty years in the making, the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture has released two new winegrapes – ‘Opportunity’ Read More
Grapes
December 28, 2016
Vincent Petrucci, Father of Fresno State Viticulture/Enology, Passes Away
The longtime columnist for American Fruit Grower and Western Fruit Grower magazines was 91. Read More
Grapes
December 3, 2016
You Need To Have Flexibility In Your Vineyard
Prioritization and compromise are sometimes necessary in a challenging growing environment. Read More
Grapes
December 2, 2016
Study Investigates Savings From Naturally Drying Raisin Grapes
After two years on the market, researchers ‘discuss cost-cutting benefits of ‘Sunpreme.' Read More
The Latest
Grapes
March 6, 2017
Washington Announces Record Winegrape Ha…
‘Cabernet Sauvignon’ is the leading grape variety, accounting for more than a quarter of the total harvest. Read More
Grapes
February 26, 2017
Winegrowers See Total Sustainability in …
Sonoma County Winegrowers eyes 2019 to become the U.S.’s first completely sustainable wine region. Read More
Grapes
February 18, 2017
Sustainability Is a Growing Factor in Wi…
California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance updates certification program, shows sustainability is important part of wine trade. Read More
Grapes
February 17, 2017
Washington Organization Rebrands Itself
Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers unveils new identity at convention, now known as Washington Winegrowers Association. Read More
Grapes
February 14, 2017
2016 California Winegrape Crush Up 9%
Prices were up 12%, and red wine grapes continue to gain on white wine grapes in popularity, though ‘Chardonnay’ remained king. Read More
Grapes
January 30, 2017
Is the Intelligent Vineyard the Future o…
In the high desert of Arizona grows the world’s biggest viticulture laboratory. Read More
Grapes
January 30, 2017
Future Herbicide Injury Concerns Winegra…
While new formulas of herbicides are released in conjunction with herbicide-tolerant corn, cotton, and soybean varieties to reduce risk of drift and crop injury, winegrape growers worry some row crop farmers will opt for older formulations. Read More
Grapes
January 27, 2017
How to Match the Fence to Your Vineyard
Follow these tips to determine how much fence you’ll need. Read More
Grapes
January 20, 2017
Live Reports on the State of the Wine In…
The Unified Wine & Grape Symposium, by far the nation’s largest winegrape conference, is happening this week in Sacramento, CA. Read More
Grapes
January 19, 2017
U.S. Challenges Canadian Trade Measures …
Trade enforcement action challenges British Columbia regulations that unfairly exclude U.S. wine from grocery store shelves. Read More
Grapes
January 6, 2017
Meet Wendy Brannen, New Executive Direct…
Commodity association veteran believes she has found a home with the Lodi Winegrape Commission. Read More
Grapes
January 5, 2017
There are Many Factors Affecting Table G…
The loss of table grape berries from their pedicels, or cap stems, during packing, shipping, postharvest storage, or at the Read More
Grapes
January 4, 2017
Grape Growers Say Season Affected by Wea…
Grape growers see challenges this past growing season. Read More
Grapes
January 3, 2017
Vine Enthusiasts Preserve Historic Viney…
It’s not just agribusiness to a group of old vine enthusiasts who seek to preserve a part of California winegrape history. Read More
Grapes
December 29, 2016
University of Arkansas Debuts New Winegr…
Twenty years in the making, the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture has released two new winegrapes – ‘Opportunity’ Read More
Grapes
December 28, 2016
Vincent Petrucci, Father of Fresno State…
The longtime columnist for American Fruit Grower and Western Fruit Grower magazines was 91. Read More
Grapes
December 3, 2016
You Need To Have Flexibility In Your Vin…
Prioritization and compromise are sometimes necessary in a challenging growing environment. Read More
Grapes
December 2, 2016
Study Investigates Savings From Naturall…
After two years on the market, researchers ‘discuss cost-cutting benefits of ‘Sunpreme.' Read More