In a collaboration with Finger Lakes Community College, the Cornell Cooperative Extension is working to set up a vineyard near Seneca Lake to conduct viticulture research and promote educational programs.
Expected to break ground in early May, the vineyard –– located 30 miles from Ithaca in Yates County –– will host researchers from CCE’s Finger Lakes Grape Program, as well as community college students, according to Paul Brock M.S. ’07, instructor of viticulture and wine technology at FLCC.
Brock said he was approached by Hans Walter-Peterson, a viticulture specialist at CCE, to establish the vineyard.
“We wanted a place where we could do some field trials where we know the history of the vineyard,” Walter-Peterson said. “It’s nice to have your own place where you know that kind of consistency from year to year.”
At the vineyard, researchers from the Finger Lakes Grape Program will work in field experiments involving vineyard nutrition, plant growth regulators and hormonal treatments to try to modify plant features such as the size of clusters of grapes, Hans-Peterson said.
Students from FLCC will also be involved in the setting up and maintaining the vineyard, giving them the opportunity to observe University researchers in their studies.
“It’s good for them to get familiar with how all these different practices work, as people who are going to be working in wineries and vineyards in the future,” Hans-Peterson said. “That’s good training for them. You can only learn so much sitting in a classroom.”
Hans-Peterson said that students who finish their classes at the community college will be eligible to transfer their credits to Cornell’s own viticulture program. Between 20 and 25 students are expected to begin working at the vineyard by the summer, according to Brock.
“A vineyard like this is just going to be a tremendous asset for both of our missions — in my case, training students, and in Hans’ case, training the industry,” Brock said. “Not only do my students get to see the basics of what they need to do, they get to see the more advanced things that Hans is doing.”
Brock also said the partnership between CCE and FLCC would be beneficial for both groups.
“Our program here at FLCC is really new, and we didn’t have any of our own vineyards,” he said. “It worked out that we both needed vineyards with very similar attributes that approximate a commercial vineyard and has several small plots of different varieties to use as demonstration purposes.”
The initial establishment of the vineyard is being funded by a portion of a $200,000 grant given to CCE by the Genesee Valley Regional Marketing Authority, according to Walter-Peterson. Brock said that the University and FLCC will evenly split the annual financial costs of running the vineyard.
According to Walter-Peterson, the Finger Lakes Grape Program and FLCC entered into a lease agreement with Anthony Road Wine Company to obtain a four-acre plot of land where they will eventually create a two-acre vineyard.
“The vineyard right now is a field with a lot of rocks,” Brock said.
FLCC currently offers courses on vineyard management and wine-making that are open to the community. Although the viticulture program is only in its second year of operation, Brock said it is beginning to attract students from wine-making regions around the Finger Lakes.
He also expressed hope that the program will encourage professionals in the industry to become involved.
“We’ve had a couple winemakers who have been in the industry for 30-plus years taking a few classes with us,” he said. “I think, as time goes on, we’ll get more people that are in the industry coming to take courses with us. We’re just now at the very early stages of that.”