Bringing in the Bounty

I was in the lush, green state of Missouri (a big departure from dry, brown California) earlier this month for the North American Grape Breeders Conference. A grassroots effort of the breeding community, the conference takes place every two years at a different host institution–Missouri State University did the honors this year. It was a terrific mix of legendary leaders, current innovators and rising stars in academia and industry, all sharing inspiration and ideas for grapevine improvement. We tasted wine from a new, as-yet unnamed white winegrape from the MSU breeding program; learned about grafting as a means of influencing traits; explored the resistance to vine mealybug across rootstocks and cultivars; celebrated advances toward making muscadines “inside fruit” (seedlessness has been achieved!) and more.

As part of the conference, attendees toured the research blocks at MSU and the vineyards of St. James Winery, where harvest was just days away. With its empty, gleaming tanks and sparkling, eat-off-the-floor winery, the production facility at St. James was alive with anticipation for the grapes to come. I imagine the scene at St. James is a little less…tidy, now that harvest has begun there.

Harvest is happening in most American grapegrowing regions. Indeed, it came as an “emergency” for at least one winegrower in Kansas. (See third item, In the News, below.) And it concluded more than a month ago for our table grape colleagues in Southern California. But no matter where you are in the cycle, harvest is a season all its own. It’s a time for community and camaraderie, when the “real work” of grapegrowing takes place.

Whether you’re in a lab, making crosses; on the phone, scheduling crews or in the field, carrying a lug of ripe and ready fruit, here’s to a beautiful, bountiful harvest season!