Work continues on efforts to establish wine industry in NV

Dr. Grant Cramer harvesting grapes grown on campus.The College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resource's wine program is really starting to bear fruit. Literally and figuratively.

Recent research by Prof. Grant Cramer of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology has found a grape gene that improves cold tolerance in grape vines. Cramer has also found that deficit irrigation has improved the winter survival of vines and increased the quantity of human-health compounds in grapes.

It's all part of an effort to help establish a robust wine industry in Nevada. Cramer notes that Washington state has established a $250 million a year wine industry in about 40 years and that the number of vineyards in Colorado has grown from one in 1968 to about 80 in 2000. Both wine-growing regions have climates similar to Nevada.

A typical vineyard in Colorado, which has some of the highest elevation vineyards in the world - ranging from 4,000 to 6,400 feet above sea level - takes about three years to start producing grapes. But by the fourth year, there are enough grapes to start making wine and generating revenue. Once established, a typical vineyard will last 20 to 60 years and provide a net return of $5,134 per acre annually (at 1999 prices).

CABNR's research also involves developing markets to determine the optimum time to harvest grapes in Nevada. And researchers continue to examine how water schedules affect resveratrol metabolism in different grape varieties. Resveratrol is a compound that benefits human health. Regulated deficit irrigation has reduced water usage on the vines by 80 percent while increasing the intensity of flavors, colors and fruity aromas.

CABNR established an experimental vineyard in January 2004, and frequently holds wine tastings, classes and workshops. It has acquired more than $9 million in grants in the last eight years, and Cramer is the chair of the Steering Committee of the International Grape.