Members visit Missouri region that produced 2 million gallons of wine per year in the 1880s
The origins of the grape and wine industry in the Midwest date back almost 200 years. This year, the American Society for Enology and Viticulture-Eastern Section held its annual conference in St. Louis from July 18 to 21, allowing members to take advantage of the location and explore the state’s wine history as well as its current wine industry.
Each year, the Eastern Section sponsors a pre-conference tour of local wineries, and on July 17, conference attendees visited two historic areas along the Missouri River. Stone Hill Winery, one of the largest wineries in Missouri today, is located in Hermann, the site chosen by German immigrants in 1837 because it reminded them of vineyard land in their home country. The settlers planted vineyards and started wineries, and by 1847 the region was producing 10,000 gallons of wine per year. In 1856, when Stone Hill Winery was first founded, production in the region had increased to 100,000 gallons, and by the 1880s it reached 2 million gallons. Prohibition reduced Missouri’s wine production to almost nothing by the mid-1930s, and the wine caves at Stone Hill Winery were used for growing mushrooms.
The wine industry in Missouri did not begin to revive until the mid-1960s. At that time, Jim and Betty Held were part of a small group of people interested in growing grapes and making wine, and in 1965 they purchased the Stone Hill Winery property, which they opened as a family business in 1970. Today the winery is run by their son, John Held, and produces about 100,000 cases per year. The wine caves now house some of the original tanks purchased by the Helds as well as barrels for aging Norton and Chambourcin wines.
The group of conference attendees also visited one of Stone Hill’s seven vineyard locations: the 82-acre Morre Vineyard, which is located about 14 miles south of Hermann at an elevation of about 1,000 feet. Vines were first planted on the site in 2010, with varieties including Chardonel, Vidal, Cayuga, Vignoles, Concord, Chambourcin and Norton. The vineyard was designed to be totally mechanized, from the initial box pruning (to do most of the rough pruning) to shoot thinning, berry thinning and, finally, harvesting. While the Norton grapes are managed by hand, the winery is converting the trellis system from Geneva Double Curtain to a 7-foot-high wire cordon to facilitate mechanical harvesting. The goal is to convert all of the winery’s 190 acres of vineyard to mechanization as soon as possible, primarily because of a shortage of labor to complete vineyard tasks by hand.
Missouri has the distinction of being the location of the first American Viticultural Area, the Augusta AVA, which was approved by the federal government on June 20,1980. The petition for the AVA was submitted by two wineries in Augusta, Mo.: Mount Pleasant Winery, opened in 1968, and Montelle Vineyards, founded in 1970. Tony Kooyumjian, owner of Augusta Winery (founded in 1988), purchased Montelle from the original owners, Clayton and Nissel Byers, in 1998.
Kooyumjian joined the tour to visit some of his 60 acres of vineyards, which include 23 acres of Norton. The vineyards are also planted with French hybrids such as Seyval Blanc, Chambourcin and Vignoles, and New York hybrids Chardonel and Valvin Muscat. Cabernet Franc is planted on an experimental basis. One of Kooyumjian’s major goals in the vineyard is to reduce tractor use in the vineyard, and consequently, he uses his irrigation system primarily to apply fertilizer and only in drought to apply water. He hires an H2A visa labor crew from Mexico from February through Aug. 1. When harvest starts later in August, grapes are harvested mechanically.
The day’s events concluded with a wine tasting at Montelle Winery.
According to the Wine Vines Analytics winery database, there are 133 wineries in Missouri, ranging in size from less than 1,000 cases per year to 200,000-case St. James Winery in St. James, Mo.
Bruce Bordelon receives Outstanding Achievement Award
At the banquet held July 20, the ASEV-Eastern Section presented its Outstanding Achievement Award to Dr. Bruce Bordelon, professor of viticulture at Purdue University. (Bordelon had recently undergone back surgery and was unable to attend). ASEV-ES chair Stephen Menke commented that Bordelon, in addition to being an outstanding teacher and the author and editor of practical publications for the grape industry, is known for “being everywhere in the Midwest and helping everybody.” He served on the board of the Eastern section and as the Section’s Chair in 2006-07.
At Purdue, Bordelon teaches commercial grape and wine production as well as fruit production courses. His research interests include the evaluation of new varieties and matching varieties to sites, and he was instrumental in the development of Traminette as Indiana’s state grape. He is the editor of the annual Midwest Fruit Pest Management Guide, which provides information about weed control and pesticides to improve fruit quality for grapes and nine other fruit crops. Revised annually, the guide is used by 13 states.
Bordelon earned a bachelor’s degree in plant pathology from Oklahoma State University, a master’s in plant pathology from Montana State University, and his Ph.D. in fruit breeding and genetics from the University of Arkansas. He joined the Purdue Wine Grape Team in 1991 and provides statewide extension support for the grape and small fruit industries in Indiana through workshops, symposia, newsletters and web-based educational materials.
Scholarships, awards and officers
The ASEV-Eastern Section awarded seven student scholarships this year. Recipients included Ming-Yi Chou and Marie Guido-Miner, both from Cornell University; Courtney Duncan of the University of Missouri; Jennifer Kelly from Brock University; Pamela Nicolle of Laval University; Maria Smith from Penn State University, and Thomas Todaro of Ohio State University.
In the student paper competition, Je nnifer Kelly of Brock University was presented with the award for the best student enology paper, titled “Yeast and Botrytis cinerea: Considerations for the Development of Regional Appassimento Wines in Ontario,” and Brycen T. Hill from Virginia Tech received the award for the best student viticulture paper for a talk about the “Effects of Variable Rooting Volume on Growth, Crop Yield, and Berry Composition of Cabernet Sauvignon.”
Eastern Section established a new student scholarship award this year in honor of Dr. Bill Nail, a board member and secretary of the Eastern Section for many years who passed away April 10. The 2016 ASEV-ES William (Bill) Nail Memorial Scholarship was presented to Andrej Svyantek of Auburn University at the banquet held July 20. The Eastern Section board members say they want to make this an annual award and will be raising funds over the next year to continue it. Funds for this year’s scholarship were donated by ASEV, ASEV-ES, Stephen Menke (the 2015-16 chair of the Eastern Section), Lisa Smiley (past ASEV-ES chair and owner of Cannon Valley Vineyards), and Fritz Westover (past ASEV-ES chair and owner of Westover Vineyard Advising).
Dr. Andrew Reynolds announced the election results for officers and board members of Eastern Section for 2016-17 at the annual business meeting. Harlene Hatterman-Valenti, professor of plant sciences at North Dakota State University, is the new chairperson; Denise Gardner, enology extension associate in the department of food science at Penn State University, will be chairperson-elect; and James Wolpert, formerly chair of the department of viticulture and enology at the University of California, Davis, and currently a resident of Hermann, Mo., will serve as secretary. Three directors were elected to two year terms: Paul Read, University of Nebraska; Justin Scheiner, Texas A&M University; and Todd Steiner, The Ohio State University; while Brent Trela, Texas Tech University, was elected to a one-year tern to replace Gardner on the board.