Wine industry growing in Nebraska

Grape growers and wine makers in Nebraska are starting to gear up for the 13th annual Nebraska Winery and Grape Growers Forum and Trade Show next month in Kearney. The theme this year is “Nebraska Wines of Highest Quality: Grower and Winery Practices that make them a Reality”. Paul Read is a professor of Horticulture and viticulture at the University of Nebraska and says this event features several speakers and workshops to help growers succeed.
“We bring in world renown speakers to share information, educational programs with Nebraska grape growers and personnel from Nebraska wineries and the opportunity is there to help people improve their ability to enhance the quality of Nebraska grown grapes and therefore high quality wine results.”
Read says the number of grape growers and wine makers in the state is increasing all the time and he says it is hard to keep count.
“I wish I did. It is a moving target. When I started working with this program over a dozen years ago, we only had one winery and now we have over two-dozen, 25 or 26, something like that. At that time, years ago, 12 to 15 years ago, we only had about 10 or 15 acres of commercial grapes and now I’m sure it is over 600. I now we have more than 100 growers, people who are growing grapes.”
Read says there are strict rules and regulations that wine makers must follow. He says if you have a winery operation in Nebraska, those wines primarily need to be made with grapes grown right here.
“Most of Nebraska’s wines are made from Nebraska grown product. Matter of fact to qualify as a farm winery, a winery must have at least 75-percent of their product grown from Nebraska grown produce which means the growth has been sustainable in terms of each needs the other. The grower needs the winery, the winery needs the grower.”
Some of the topics will include proper trellis, harvest, quality assurance and how to promote the industry. The cost for the entire event is $200 for members and $250 for non-members. Per-event prices are available as well. Read says this is the perfect time for those interested in either growing grapes or starting a winery to get valuable information. The event will be held March 4th through the 6th at the Holiday Inn in Kearney. More information is available at agronomy.unl.edu.