Millions for Vineyard and Wine Research

PLCB and American Vineyard Foundation provide nearly $2.4 million in grants

by Linda Jones McKee
A research student with the Centinari Lab at Pennsylvania State University measures sunlight in the cluster zone of a vine. Dr. Michela Centinari recently received several grants for further vineyard research. Photo: Centinari Lab.

Harrisburg, Pa.—This past week saw nearly a $2.4 million boost in funds available to support the grape and wine industry on both sides of the country.

Gov. Tom Wolf announced on May 16 that the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) awarded funds totaling $999,989 to seven grant projects that will develop and promote the state’s wine industry. Five days later, Tony Stephen, chairman of the American Vineyard Foundation (AVF), reported that the foundation is providing $1,387,400 in new funding for 24 viticulture and enology research projects in California, Oregon and at the USDA Agricultural Research Station (USDA-ARS).

The Pennsylvania Wine Association (PWA), will receive $519,500 and is the major recipient of the grant money from the PLCB. According to Jennifer Eckinger, executive director of PWA, the organization plans to use the funds for its Pennsylvania Wine Lands statewide marketing and promotion program, including continuation of the Pennsylvania Wine Land consumer marketing campaign, expansion of the Pennsylvania Wine Month promotion in October 2018, and sustained support of a cooperative wine trails grant program that represents more than 100 wineries.

“The majority of the grant will go towards advertising placements–print, online, Pandora ads and on NPR radio,” Eckinger said. “Year-round advertising allows for placements with a broader reach, and wineries all over the state will benefit.”

The PWA was formed in 1976 when a group of winery owners and growers met with representatives of the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Markets and members of the state House of Representatives Liquor Control Committee. At that time, the state had 12 wineries; today Pennsylvania has 275 wineries, according to Wines Vines Analytics. The PWA currently has 135 winery members and supports numerous wine events, programs and festivals as well as Pennsylvania’s 14 wine trails and the Pennsylvania Wine Land promotional program.

In addition to the funds given to the PWA, grants were also awarded by the PLCB for the following projects:

• $195,622 to Dr. Michela Centinari, assistant professor of viticulture, Pennsylvania State University, for a project to define the regional typicity of Grüner Veltliner;

• $101,321 to Dr. Ryan Elias, associate professor of food science, Penn State, for a study to evaluate the impact of foliar nitrogen and sulfur spraying as a viticultural practice to improve the quality and profitability of white hybrid wines;

• $97,321 to Dr. John Hayes, associate professor of food science, Penn State, for a study on the appeal to consumers of peppery aromas from rotundone in Noiret and Grüner Veltliner wines.

• $51,978 to Centinari at Penn State for research on a sustainable weed suppression alternative to herbicides that will improve grape production and maintain or improve soil health;

• $20,000 to Centinari at Penn State and wine consultant Denise Gardner and chair of the American Society of Enology and Viticulture Eastern Section (ASEV-ES), for sponsorship of key speakers and Pennsylvanian wines to be poured at the 2018 ASEV-ES conference in King of Prussia, Pa. in July;

• $14,025 to Dr. Justine Vanden Heuvel, associate professor of horticulture, Cornell University, for a study of screening soil microbial stimulators for potential effectiveness in Northeastern vineyards, with the results to be shared with Penn State and wine growers.

In 2016, Gov. Wolf signed Act 39, legislation that authorized the PLCB to approve up to $1 million each year for wine promotion. The act also expanded the state’s Wine Marketing and Research Board, which recommends the various grant projects for approval by the PLCB. The first grants, totaling $999,934 for 13 projects, were awarded in May 2017.

According to Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Agriculture, Russell Redding, “Pennsylvania’s wine industry contributes $4.8 billion to our state’s economy. Supporting wine producers in making the highest quality products is an important investment in the vitality of the industry, and in meeting consumer demand of locally sourced, high quality products.”

The AVF awards funds for research
The American Vineyard Foundation, based in Napa, Calif., solicits voluntary contributions to support ongoing as well as new high priority research projects to help the grape and wine industry. Members of the AVF are surveyed periodically to determine the issues that are most in need of research. According to the AVF website, in 2016 a total of 11 members contributed more than $20,000; 12 donated contributions of between $10,000 and $19,999; and more than 110 gave between $1,000 and $9,999.

“Thanks to the generosity of nearly 1,000 grower and vintner members,” said Tony Stephen, chief planning officer at Scheid Vineyards in Monterey, Calif., and AVF’s chairman in the press release announcing the funding, “the AVF continues to drive research solutions to the challenges we face in our vineyards and wineries.”

The American Society of Enology and Viticulture organized the AVF in 1978 as a way to raise funds for research in viticulture and enology. The board of directors has 26 members, primarily from the California grape and wine industries.

A total of six universities or other wine organizations received funding for 2018-2019. The University of California, Davis, received 12 grants totaling $722,600; Oregon State University was funded for six grants with $398,900; and the USDA-ARS received three grants totaling $139,900. Three other institutions each received a grant: the Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission ($21,800), the University of California, Berkeley ($61,900), and the University of California Cooperative Extension ($42,300).

Two projects were funded at the $100,000 level: Dr. Kaan Kurtural, cooperative extension specialist at UC Davis, for a project on rootstock biology and Dr. M. Andrew Walker, professor of viticulture and enology at UC Davis, for continued work on his rootstock breeding program.

A complete list of the funded projects can be found on the AVF’s website at: www.avf.org

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