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
GrapesNew Name, Same Mission: California Fresh Fruit Association
February 23, 2015
Chairman of the California Fresh Fruit Association shares his insights on the future of the group and how it will address the challenges its members are facing. Read More
Apples & PearsThe State Of Mechanical Apple Harvesting
February 23, 2015
Breakthroughs in mechanization have been a long time coming, but recent advances combining the skills of both people and machines are bringing efficiencies to orchards of all sizes. Read More
GrapesMillennials Drive Demand For Premium Wine
February 20, 2015
Big wine brands win at grocery, while smaller brands target online channels. Read More
GrapesRegister Now For The Central Coast Wine Industry Conference And Trade Show
February 11, 2015
WiVi will take place March 17-18 in Paso Robles, CA. Read More
GrapesGrapevine Health Post-Polar Vortex
February 11, 2015
Some vines were a total loss, while others fared relatively well. Experts weigh in on grapevine health in the Northeast and Midwest after an extremely cold 2014. Read More
Disease ControlPierce’s Disease/Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter Winegrape Grower Referendum Dates Announced
February 5, 2015
The PD/GWSS assessment is one of the primary sources of funding for research on Pierce’s Disease and the glassy-winged sharpshooter. Read More
GrapesRegister Now For B.E.V. NY 2015
February 5, 2015
The B.E.V. grape and wine industry workshop and trade show will take place Feb. 26-28 in Henrietta, NY. Read More
The Latest
GrapesWashington Winegrape Industry Announces Honors
February 26, 2015
Awards included Grower of the Year, Industry Service, Lifetime Achievement, Restaurant of the Year and Posters. Read More
GrapesSonoma Agriculture Preservation Plan Unveiled
February 26, 2015
Winegrowers’ 100-year business plan is the first of its kind in agriculture. Read More
GrapesGrowers Of Lower End California Winegrapes Face Challen…
February 24, 2015
Growers in the San Joaquin Valley are pulling out thousands of acres, replanting with nuts. Read More
GrapesNew Name, Same Mission: California Fresh Fruit Associat…
February 23, 2015
Chairman of the California Fresh Fruit Association shares his insights on the future of the group and how it will address the challenges its members are facing. Read More
Apples & PearsThe State Of Mechanical Apple Harvesting
February 23, 2015
Breakthroughs in mechanization have been a long time coming, but recent advances combining the skills of both people and machines are bringing efficiencies to orchards of all sizes. Read More
GrapesMillennials Drive Demand For Premium Wine
February 20, 2015
Big wine brands win at grocery, while smaller brands target online channels. Read More
GrapesRegister Now For The Central Coast Wine Industry Confer…
February 11, 2015
WiVi will take place March 17-18 in Paso Robles, CA. Read More
GrapesGrapevine Health Post-Polar Vortex
February 11, 2015
Some vines were a total loss, while others fared relatively well. Experts weigh in on grapevine health in the Northeast and Midwest after an extremely cold 2014. Read More
Disease ControlPierce’s Disease/Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter Wineg…
February 5, 2015
The PD/GWSS assessment is one of the primary sources of funding for research on Pierce’s Disease and the glassy-winged sharpshooter. Read More
GrapesRegister Now For B.E.V. NY 2015
February 5, 2015
The B.E.V. grape and wine industry workshop and trade show will take place Feb. 26-28 in Henrietta, NY. Read More
Apples & PearsBiopesticide Use Quadrupled From 2000 To 2012
February 4, 2015
Biopesticides are on the up and up in U.S. agriculture as confirmed by recent data from EPA. “The use of Read More
GrapesRecord Crowds Flock To California Winegrape Show
January 30, 2015
Unified Wine & Grape Symposium attracts 14,000 industry professionals. Read More
GrapesCalifornia Table Grape Growers Offer Agricultural Schol…
January 28, 2015
The application deadline for the agricultural scholarships is 5 p.m., Feb. 13. Read More
GrapesNew Wine Hybrid Establishment Cost Resource Available
January 28, 2015
Research from Cornell University breaks down the cost of producing hybrid winegrapes. Read More
Apples & PearsA Better Understanding Of Biocontrol
January 27, 2015
The Biocontrols 2015 Conference & Tradeshow will help growers and PCAs incorporate new tools into their crop protection programs. Read More
GrapesEstimates Vs. Actual: The Cost Of Installing A Vineyard
January 26, 2015
The true costs of developing a vineyard depend on variables such as vine selection, trellising, and labor. Read More
Apples & PearsSurvey: Positive Indicators For Biocontrols In U.S. Hor…
January 22, 2015
Preliminary results of a survey conducted in December 2014 of more than 850 readers across six Meister Media Worldwide titles Read More
Apples & PearsReal-World Solutions Highlight First Biocontrols 2015 C…
January 22, 2015
Topping the inaugural event's marquee are presentations on “Driving Crop Quality and Productivity Using Biocontrols” by representatives from two of the largest produce growing organizations in the country. Read More