Growers, vintners pick up tips at seminar

Phil Miller, creator of the “Cinch,” a multi-use blossom thinner, gives a demonstration of his invention at at combined convention of fruit growers and wineries at Two Rivers Convention Center on Thursday.



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Phil Miller, creator of the “Cinch,” a multi-use blossom thinner, gives a demonstration of his invention at at combined convention of fruit growers and wineries at Two Rivers Convention Center on Thursday.

A combined horticulture and grape-growing seminar in Grand Junction appears to just get better with age.

For seven decades, the Western Colorado Horticulture Society has been offering the annual seminars on growing and marketing all manner of fruits, vegetables and ornamentals in the Grand Valley. For the past three years, the Colorado Association for Viticulture and Enology has offered its seminars alongside the Horticulture Society.

On Thursday, during the last day of the three-day event, some participants left feeling invigorated after learning about an extensive lineup of topics.

John Barbier of Maison La Belle Vie Winery in Palisade said he learned quite a few tricks of the trade and also was encouraged to learn he had been doing some things correctly.

For example, colder temperatures in the Grand Valley have created challenging conditions to grow some grape varieties. Barbier said for a few years he’s been experimenting by planting more hybrid varieties, a tip he learned at this year’s conference.

“For a long time people have been planting the grapes they want to plant, but not what grows here,” he said.

Barbier also attended workshops on how to care for wine barrels, how to heat stabilize wine, how to best market wine and new information on alcohol enforcement laws.

He said growers also learned about working with other growers, a practice that can help the whole local industry. Ideas were posed on creating a Craigslist type website in which growers could buy and sell equipment from each other.

“We don’t communicate enough,” he said. “How do we improve that? We need to see our neighbors as our colleagues rather than our competition. In the end that’s what we need, to plant more vines.”

Making the art and craft of growing grapes and consuming wine appear less snobbish is one of the goals for the Colorado Association of Viticulture & Enology, said Cassidee Shull, the group’s executive director.

One of the ways the Grand Valley does that is through the annual Palisade Wine Festival, where people from all walks of life come out to sample the area’s wines, she said.

“It’s one of my personal goals to make wine more comfortable and approachable and fun,” she said.

In general, the Grand Valley is becoming more widely well-known for the quality of its agriculture, she said.

“The industry definitely is seeing growth and quality of our product,” Shull said.



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