The Smallest State Producing Wines Wants to Grow Its Wine Industry

April 1st, 2022 by admin Leave a reply »

The wine industry is constantly evolving. Some changes are profound such as when laws, impacting wine, change (most notably in distribution); some are more subtle, such as the changes brought on as consumer preferences change; and then there are changes that open up new opportunities for regional economic growth. The later is most notable in state and local regulations. A few decades ago a new and wine industry was born in, of all places, Texas. The Texas wine industry is proving successful. Some of these wines are recognized as award-winning wines. Whatever the mechanism that brings on changes in the wine industry, these impacts are far reaching-vendors (from screw caps, bottles, corks, chemicals, barrels, etc.), rootstock nurseries, farm equipment, labor, plant and facilities, distribution, tax revenues (employee and product), marketing (advertising, sales, consultants), tourism and manufacturing equipment.

The fact is, every state has a winery presence. Obviously, California is the largest with 4,054 wineries (43% of bonded wineries in the U.S.) and these wineries generated $15 billion in 2015. As a point of reference, since they were mentioned previously, Texas today has 228 wineries and represents 2.4% of the 9,436 wineries in the U.S. Currently, there are 4 wineries in Nevada with the majority of their wine production fruit coming from Lodi, Napa and Sonoma. Two of the wineries are in the Las Vegas area and 2 in Northern Nevada. There are probably only 2 of the 4 are serious producers. (Probably the largest of the four is Frey Estates in Fallon, NV which has a 10 acre vineyard and operates as a winery and distillery without any food services; operating only a tasting room.)

According to Wines & Vines Newsletter, “States growing at the fastest rates include Ohio, up 15% to 181 wineries, Minnesota, up 15% to 62 wineries, and Florida, up 22% to 55 wineries.” There is one common thread throughout-the wine industry is growing in areas not recognized as being conducive as a source for fruit. Seems that cold climate grapes have been around for a long time in the U.S.; just look at the wine industry in New York State, Minnesota and Michigan. The industry has been slow addressing issues of varietals compatible with dry, hot, cold and high elevation climates. One exception is the Northwest region of the U.S. – specifically Washington and Oregon.

In the U.S. there has been over a century of grape research on varietals that product quality fruit for wine. The most notable is Dr. Clark from the University of Arkansas who has ‘invented’ more than 6 new varietals. He has commented that today there are numerous universities involved in developing hybrid grapes for wine. Most notably is the New York Agricultural Experimental Station (part of Cornell University). They have been involved with grapevine experimentation since 1909.

Dr. Clark says that there has been little research on varietals best suited for hot/high and hot/dry with cold winter climates. The most notable research on these grape growing conditions is from Dr. Matthew Fidelibus from UC-Fresno. His research is really focused on the Central California region with elevations of less than 2,500 feet. The northern Nevada elevations are 4,000 to 5,000 feet. For comparison purposes, Chile’s premier wine growing regions in the Andes are above 5,500 feet. Mendoza in Argentina is 2,600 feet elevation which is still considered high by U.S. standards.

But, the question begging for a discussion–is research necessary to expand wine grape farming in Nevada? As mentioned, New York has committed to wine grape research (Vitis vinifera) at Cornell University, so one must ask the impact of wine industry in New York to justify this research. Recognizing that New York is the 4th largest producer of wines in the U.S. it is worth noting the wine industry impact on the New York economy is $4.8 billion and generates $408 million in state and local taxes.


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