Cornell Lab Initiative Highlighted in Times Herald-Record
By Brian Dunlop
For the Times Herald-Record
October 23, 2006
The Hudson Valley is poised to supply wine grapes to its own wineries, but the region's frigid winters mean that potential grape growers need advice on where to plant.
Researchers at Cornell University's Hudson Valley Laboratory in Highland want to help farmers by finding those best places.
"Most winemakers want local grapes, to cut costs and to produce a true Hudson Valley product," said Stephen Hoying, the Cornell project leader.
"We want to develop a methodology for growing grapes locally that farmers can use before they set out on their own," he said.
Michael Migliore, proprietor of Whitecliff Vineyard and president of the Hudson Valley Wine and Grape Association, estimates that "500 to 1,000 acres of grapes are needed to satisfy existing demand among Hudson Valley wineries."
Migliore applauds the laboratories efforts to expand fortify the local wine industry.
"For an apple farmer getting into grapes, Cornell will be able to tell them the best sites and grape varieties to grow."
Wine tourism has spread throughout the Hudson Valley in the past 20 years, fueled by a threefold increase in wineries.
But viticulture researcher John Hudelson notes that local growers seeking to diversify their crops have to contend with an old foe: frigid winter temperatures that often claim fragile grape vines.
Temperatures lower than minus 10 will kill wine-grape vines.
The first stage of the Cornell lab's research involves identifying locations that could support the most vulnerable viniferous vines — ones that produce the best wine.
To accomplish this, the laboratory team has been placing 125 sensors around the region, which will be in place by Nov. 15.
These will monitor temperatures throughout the winter and give them an idea of how much fluctuation exists during the coldest months.
Several locations, usually found at the top of sloping ground within a short distance of the Hudson River, have already proven capable of sustaining viniferous vines.
"Cold air pools like water in valleys," explains Hudelson.
"After a frost, crops at the top of a slope will not be as damaged as those at the bottom."
The trick is to identify the locations that are protected enough from winter air.
Ultimately, the research could serve two aims.
It would both help preserve local family farms, and also solidify the Hudson Valley as a recognized wine producer.