Vineyard assistance program aims to boost local grape production

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Ohio vineyards are dependent on Mother Nature, but a statewide assistance program aims to offer a little help for statewide grape growers.

The Vineyard Expansion Assistance Program, created to bolster the establishment of new, expansion or rehabilitation of vineyards in Ohio, is available.

Vineyards can apply for the assistance to replace non-bearing vines or to plant new ones. VEAP allows wineries and vineyards to invest in and plant high-quality, high-value grapes so they don’t have to rely on purchasing them from other states, according to the Ohio Grape Industries Committee.

The incentive program was created by, and is funded by, the OGIC, which falls under the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

Due to the small number of grapes produced in Ohio, many wineries, farmers markets and retailers buy multiple varietals from other states to meet production needs.

Not only does the program offer a boost for vineyards, but it helps preserve agriculture in Ohio, said Donniella Winchell of the Ohio Wine Producers Association.

“Industry authenticity is based on fruit that is grown in soils from which the wines are produced,” said Winchell, who said the program is modeled after one in Missouri that encourages “fruit in the ground.”

“It’s designed primarily for small production, but some of the larger wineries have taken advantage (of VEAP) of either adding to vineyards or introducing some new varieties,” she said.

The program also has a macro, residual effect.

“Once you plant a condominium or housing development in an area that grows grapes, you’ll never get it back viticulturally,” she said. “It feeds the authenticity of the industry because we are growing grapes and making wine out of those in Ohio dirt, and secondly, it preserves the relatively unique areas for agriculture rather than housing developments.”

Larger wineries like Ferrante Winery in Geneva are applying, but it also encourages smaller ones as well, she said.

Ohio is the country’s sixth largest wine producer, with nearly 1,200 acres of vineyards producing and selling 1.2 million gallons, or 500,000 cases, of wine annually. Ohio has 370 licensed wine manufacturers, creating more than 8,000 full-time jobs for residents, according to the OGIC.

Each grower can apply for as much as $1,500 per half acre with a maximum of three acres, or $9,000. Planting must occur in spring 2023. Applications must be received by OGIC by Friday, Nov. 4. For details, contact Christy Eckstein at christy.eckstein@agri.ohio.gov.

Related coverage: Concord grapes are in season: Here are 3 Greater Cleveland farms to pick your own

Like wine? Options vary for buying wine. Online retailers offer chances to choose what you want, curate cases and find discounts. Here’s a selection to consider:

brightcellars.com: Monthly club matches you with wines after you take a “palate quiz.”

cellarswineclub.com: Allows you to choose the number of bottles you want.

exoticwine.club.com: Offers subscription wine boxes from wineries in less accessible markets.

splashwines.com: Choose a curated case or build your own.

winc.com: Four wines tailored to your tastes are shipped monthly. Has review component.

wine.com: Large online seller often offers new-customer discounts.

wineawesomeness.com: Three- and six-bottle curated shipments.

wineenthusiast.com: All-encompassing site for accoutrements – racks, glasses, openers, storage, gifts.

wineonsale.com: Allows you to select by varietal or region.

zachys.com: Includes a variety of ways to search/shop, plus has info on auctions.

I am where cleveland.com‘s life and culture team and cover food, beer, wine and sports-related topics. If you want to see my stories, here’s a directory on cleveland.com. Bill Wills of WTAM-1100 and I talk food and drink usually at 8:20 am Thursday morning. Twitter: @mbona30.

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