Vine to Wine workshop scheduled

A vineyard can turn a regular yard into a marvelous spectacle.

But can grapes make money on the North Olympic Peninsula? A Washington State University Clallam County Extension workshop will address the question and its answer -- Yes, in some places.

The workshop, scheduled for April 25-26, will follow up on results of a professional study that looked into the feasibility of grape propagation in the area. The study indicated some areas could support a number of cool-weather grape varieties.

"What I've done since expert Greg Jones did the grape production study was put up temperature gauges in six spots throughout the county to track some of the microclimates," said WSU Extension director Curtis Beus. "There are some surprising results that will be released at the meeting."

The workshop will cover the entire process of making wine, but will focus on grape propagation, areas suitable for growing grapes and tactics growers can use to get around the peninsula's cooler weather.

"We can't grow the grapes they do in California, but we can certainly grow quite a variety of cool-weather wine grapes on the peninsula," Beus said. "We have speakers who grow grapes and make wines themselves in the area, as well as grape growing experts who can lead those interested in growing grapes through how to start up a small operation."

Beus said there have been a number of serious inquiries into grape propagation since the study was released. He said he would like those who are interested to track temperatures on their land.

"I think there will be some acreage of grapes going in within the next couple of years," Beus said. "What I suggest is for people to start slow, see how things go with a test plot and then possibly move toward a larger plot of vines if that's what they desire."

Beus said one of the guest speakers, Tom Miller, who has a home vineyard in Dungeness, was able to grow enough grapes during last year's cooler summer for Olympic Cellars Winery to use for a batch of wine.

"Olympic Cellars will purchase locally grown grapes and, as in any grape-growing region, weather can be a factor from year to year, but we are committed to making a superb wine that pairs with our local cuisine and seafood," winery owner Kathy Charlton said. "Our first local wine was released in 2006 as a nouveau and the 2007 vintage is still aging in stainless barrels."

Other guest speakers include WSU viticulture specialist Dr. Mercy Olmstead, who will discuss site selection, design, grape varieties and vineyard management. Gary Moulton, who grows grapes in Skagit County, will discuss his successes in growing cool-climate grapes and Gerard Bentryn, owner of Bainbridge Island Vineyard and Winery, will discuss his operation, which grows grapes and processes them into wines.

"We will be here to answer questions and provide examples of how people can get started," Beus said. "There are so many little tricks and lessons that can make the difference between not quite getting a good crop to actually getting a crop that wineries will thirst for."

The cost of the two-day workshop is $40 and will include a wine and cheese tasting session, a full lunch and field trips to area wineries and vineyards.

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