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Ohio State gets $650K to boost state’s wine industry

It seems a toast is in order. Ohio State is one of seven institutions that has been awarded a portion of a grant to boost Ohio’s wine industry.

OSU received a $630,000 share of the $3.8 million grant, which is supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative.

The goal of the project is to reduce the environmental impact of grape production and improve consumer attitudes toward eastern states’ wines.

Ohio’s wine industry has reached an annual production of more than 1.1 million gallons coming from 1,500 acres of grapes, according to an OSU press release.

OSU researchers will address major factors challenging Ohio’s wine industry — such as excessive rainfall and cold-weather damage — and provide Ohio wine merchants with outreach and research opportunities.

Raven’s Glenn Winery in West Lafayette, Ohio, supplies wine to Woody’s Tavern in the Ohio Union. Mikki Nichols, distribution manager for Raven’s Glenn, said that although the winery’s business is booming, it has been affected by the environmental factors being explored in the study.

“We had a late frost that nipped a lot of our fruit,” Nichols said. “That’s the huge disadvantage.”

Though Raven’s Glenn vineyard covers 30 acres, Nichols said the company still has to purchase some of its grapes from California.

“It takes so many weeks of hot weather — we just don’t get those days in Ohio,” she said.

The grant will link to a national project already established at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster, the center’s Ashtabula Agricultural Research Station in Kingsville and the OSU South Centers at Piketon.

“Our longterm goal is to develop a model to predict cold hardiness of a given variety at a given site and given weather conditions,” said Imed Dami, one of the grant’s co-principal investigators and an associate professor in horticulture and crop science, in a press release.

Patrick Ionno, food and beverage director for the Ohio Union, hadn’t heard of the grant but said it’s important to support Ohio’s agriculture.

He said Woody’s sells wine from six Ohio wineries: Raven’s Glenn, Ferrante Winery and Ristorante, Wyandotte Winery, Firelands Winery, Valley Vineyards Winery and Meranda-Nixon Winery. Altogether, there are 150 wineries in Ohio.

Ionno said he is excited about the wine menu he and Roger Garland, the Ohio Union’s executive chef, chose for Woody’s.

“We have a lot of good comments on our wine selection,” he said.

Camelot Cellars Boutique Winery, located in the Short North, makes its wine on-site but outsources grapes from elsewhere, general manager Rick Mitchell said.

Mitchell said he sees a need for local wineries to provide a variety of wines to their customers, which Ohio’s climate often does not support.

“I don’t think the average person expects a winery in Columbus, Ohio,” Mitchell said. “We have no Ohio wines.”

The six other grant recipients are Cornell University, North Carolina State University, Pennsylvania State University, the University of Connecticut, the University of Maryland and Virginia Tech. 

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