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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Wine and Vine Conference Teaches Finer Points of Production

ALBUQUERQUE - Grape and wine producers can learn how growing conditions affect wine quality at the Southwest Regional Vine and Wine Conference Feb. 25-26 in Albuquerque.

Ron Walser, fruit specialist with NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service, talks about new grape varieties being tested at an experimental vineyard at NMSU's Agricultural Science Center at Los Lunas. Walser will teach organic techniques to improve soil fertility in vineyards and control powdery mildew at the 2005 Vine and Wine Conference Feb. 25-26 in Albuquerque. (NMSU Agricultural Communications photo by J. Victor Espinoza)

New Mexico State University helped organize this year's conference--an annual event that the New Mexico Wine and Vine Society launched in 1974.

"It's an opportunity for growers to learn about the best production practices for wine grapes and wine making," said Ron Walser, a fruit specialist with NMSU's Sustainable Agriculture Science Center at Alcalde. "It's the only annual wine grape conference offered in New Mexico."

Rex Franklin, membership secretary for the Wine and Vine Society, said the conference's goal is improving locally produced grapes and wines.

"We teach state-of-the-art production techniques," Franklin said. "We have a top-notch slate of speakers this year, thanks in good part to NMSU."

Jerry Schickedanz, dean of NMSU's College of Agriculture and Home Economics, will offer the keynote address, highlighting recent efforts to fortify the local wine industry.

NMSU and industry leaders formed a wine industry task force in 2003 to request state funding for research. In response, the state legislature approved $75,000 last year to help NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service hire its first viticulturist. Legislators are now considering bills to increase the allotment to $150,000.

NMSU launched a variety of research and grower assistance programs in 2004 that will be discussed during the conference.

Jay Lillywhite, an assistant professor with agricultural economics and agricultural business, will unveil a new survey of 57 vineyards. The results prioritize problems producers face, such as variety selection and nutrient and pest management.

Erin Silva, an agronomy and horticulture physiologist who is studying the impact of high-potassium soils on wine acidity levels, will discuss how growing conditions affect wine quality.

Robert Flynn, a soil scientist with NMSU's Agricultural Science Center at Artesia, will present results of soil surveys from vineyards across the state. Robert Wample, head of enology and viticulture at the University of California at Fresno, will discuss potassium nutrition and problems in wine grapes based on an analysis of New Mexico samples.

Walser will discuss organic techniques to improve soil fertility in vineyards and control powdery mildew. Bernd Maier of Arid land Technologies will talk about grape trellis systems. Chemist Daniel Leonard will demonstrate wine analysis. Food and wine consultant Shirley Nelson will show a variety of wines made from the same batch of grapes. Jon Iverson, author of Winemaking Step by Step, will conduct a workshop on home winemaking.

Wine and Vine Society members will discuss grape variety trials underway at NMSU's Agricultural Science Center at Los Lunas. The society helped NMSU test 12 European varieties, nine of which are new to New Mexico. Participants can taste wines that Ponderosa Winery owner Henry Street made from the new varieties.

Participants can also sample and buy fine New Mexico wines at two tasting sessions. A silent auction will take place on Feb. 25 to benefit Wine and Vine Society chapters around the state. The conference will conclude with a banquet on Feb. 26.

Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. each day and runs from 8:15 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Le Baron Inn and Suites at 2120 Menaul Blvd. NE. Participation in all workshops costs $80 for society members and $90 for nonmembers. One-day participation costs $50 and $55, respectively. Participants pay separate fees for wine tasting, meals, the silent auction and the banquet.

For more information, or if you are an individual with a disability who is in need of an auxiliary aid or service to participate, call Carl Popp at (505) 835-0263 or Franklin at (505) 898-4245.