From vine to wine

PARKERSBURG – Growing grapes for a number of uses was the main topic of a workshop offered Saturday by the West Virginia University Extension Service and Wood County Gardeners.

Pruning and caring for the plants was demonstrated at the Wine Tree Vineyard at 722 Jesterville Road north of Parkersburg by vineyard co-owner Candy Bandy and WVU Extension agent J.J. Barrett.

Barrett said 30 people came out for the workshop at the vineyard. The extension service has had similar programs for other fruits.

“We usually do one on blackberriers and fruit trees,” he said.

Barrett said he has not set a time for the blackberry program since the person who was supposed to conduct it pulled out and he is looking for a replacement. While Wood County may not have a large number of vineyards and wineries, there is a lot of interest in growing grapes, he said.

“It’s a lot of backyard growers and this is the only winery in the county,” he said. “The old standby grape Concord are older vines people make jams and jellies from or homemade grape juice.”

At the Wine Tree Vineyard, Barrett said there are a number of different varieties grown for wine making.

“They have Fredonia, Traminette, Cayuga White, and the name of the wine comes from the name of the grape,” he said. “Traminette was introduced by Cornell University, many of the land grants create these hybrids when they do research.”

Barrett said there are two subspecies of grapes, American and European.

“The European varieties won’t grow here,” he said. “If we try to plant them over here they get several diseases in the root system. That’s why the standard varieties are grown here and the most popular is Concord.”

Barrett said the hybrids are an attempt to have grapes that have many of the characteristics of the European grapes to make the same wines. He said there are hundreds of grape varieties grown in North America. The standard varieties have been growing for hundreds if not thousands of years.

Bandy said the Wine Tree Vineyard is mostly Cayuga White, with some Traminette and Fredonia.

“Half the vineyard is Cayuga White, it’s very delightful,” she said. “Fredonia grows well here and is very similar to Concord, but less potent.”

Bandy said with Fredonia the taste is similar to Concord but more subdued.

“Fredonia has the same grape flavor just more subdued,” she said. “It’s makes a good wine.”

Wine Tree’s owners got into the business after the business supply store they owned closed several years ago.

“This was one of those things; we needed something since our day job closed 13 years ago,” she said. “We were like what will we do until we retire.

“Craig (Bandy) has been making wine since he was 16, we decided to check into that.”

Bandy said they learned it was best to grow one’s own grapes and she liked working with plants and it grew from there. The vines at Wine Tree were planted in 2007.

“We have five varieties of grapes here,” she said. “We planted some Concord and Fredonia, some of the top rows are Traminette.”

Bandy demonstrated how the vines are pruned at this time of the year during Saturday’s workshop. Each plant produces a gallon of wine which can fill five bottles. She said they are expanding so they can grow more of their own grapes instead of buying from other growers.

“It’s very labor intensive but we are not afraid of that,” she said.