Boom Times for Ohio Wine

Ohio Wine Conference sets attendance record

by Linda Jones McKee
ohio wine
Columbus, Ohio—The national economy may still be struggling, but you would never know it to look at the Ohio wine and grape industry. Grapegrowers and winemakers from across that state gathered at the 4-H Center on Ohio State University’s campus in Columbus for two days of information-packed sessions at the Ohio Grape and Wine Conference.

The room was full for enology talks, and there were so many people at the new grower meetings that some had to sit on the floor. Todd Steiner, research associate at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster, Ohio, told Wines & Vines that conference planners had an anticipated attendance of approximately 165; however, 243 people actually showed up.

“This was our biggest conference ever,” Steiner stated. “We have a larger trade show than before, and a lot of very enthusiastic people who are just coming into the industry.” Ohio now has 148 wineries, with another seven to nine in the final planning stages. The state produces 1.1 million gallons of wine per year. The overall total economic impact of the grape and wine industry in Ohio amounts to $582.2 million annually.

New growers get schooled

The workshop for new growers examined the entire process of establishing a vineyard—from figuring out which grapevines to plant, to vineyard design and development of weed, pest and disease management programs. Dr. Imed Dami, associate professor in the department of horticulture and crop science at Ohio State University, noted that growers in Ohio can plant a wide variety of grapes in their vineyards, from vinifera to native grapes. However, he insisted, before they put a single vine in the ground, growers should look at the characteristics of the potential vineyard site, the characteristics of the type and whether the variety is appropriate for that site, and then consider whether there is a market for those grape varietals. Prices for grapes in Ohio during the last harvest were as low as $173/ton for Concord to a high of $1,716/ton for Cabernet Franc.

Topics in the “new winery” workshop ranged from basics of the different regulations required by the Ohio Department of Liquor Control to the essential equipment for wineries and laboratories. The featured enology speaker, Dr. Richard Carey, owner of Vitis Research and winemaker at Tamanend Winery in Lancaster, Penn., (and a contributor to Wines & Vines), told potential winery owners: “The most important thing a winery makes is money. You should look at your skill-set first, because growing grapes is very different from making wine, and marketing either grapes or wine requires another set of skills.

“It may be that you should establish your brand first. Buy some fruit or bulk wine, contract with another winery or a custom crush facility, and then begin to sell your wine. Then, after you are making some money, build and equip a winery or plant a vineyard.”

The conference was organized by the Ohio State University Viticulture and Enology Program, the Ohio Grape Industries Committee and the Ohio Wine Producers Association.

Posted on 02.26.2011 - 16:14:41 PST
Linda: Thanks to you and the W ad V folks for your great coverage of our conference. After participating in more than 20 years of these gatherings, I echo everyone's enthsiasm that it was not only one of the largest but among the best ever. Kudos to those who worked so hard to make it a successful conference. And know that we are most appreciative that your publication recognizes the importance of our industry and those of other Midwest and Eastern states.
Donniella Winchell
Geneva, OH USA