Officials Urge Growers to Plant More Grapes to Keep up with Demand

By: Estephany Escobar Email
By: Estephany Escobar Email

Governor Bob McDonnell released a statement announcing Virginia wine sales reached an all-time high in fiscal year 2012.

In fiscal year 2012, Virginia wineries sold 485,000 cases compared to 477,000 in 2011.

The Bluestone Vineyard owner Curt Hartman has seen the increase in demand in his own vineyard.

He said they only grow only a third of the grapes in the vineyard.

"There are some places that we can buy specific grapes that grow better in other locals than they do here and there are some grapes that we can grow better here," Hartman said.

He said they're considering expanding the 25 acres to grow half of their grapes in the Bridgewater area. However, it hasn't been easy.

"Trying to find the right piece and finding it at a price that's affordable. It's difficult," he said.

Secretary of Agriculture Todd Haymore said planting more grapes will help keep up with the demand.

According to a report from the Virginia wine marketing office from 2005 to 2010, the acres of grapes increased from 2,000 to 2,700.

Hartman said sometimes new vineyards are not included in current state reports. He said it takes three years to grow grapes. Therefore, the acres in new vineyards may not be added until they are producing grapes.

Hartman said if the the demand keeps growing , they may have to keep planting at the vineyards in Bridgewater.

"If for instance our wine production doubles next year, we need to have more grapes," he said.

He said with the expansion they are considering, they would still keep getting 50 percent of grapes from other growers.

However, he said it may be tougher to get more.

"It is getting harder to find additional growers and the price is going up, which translates not only costing us more for grapes, but eventually will affect the price of wine," Hartman said.

Haymore said there are some government incentives for those looking to open or expand a winery. Some of them include, tax credit programs and grants up to $250,000.

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