When I first began writing for Good Fruit Grower in 1995, my beat of coverage was stone fruit and Washington State’s grape industry. With my background in tree fruit and grapes, it seemed a logical way to split story assignments with the magazine’s editor Geraldine Warner. Through the years, I’ve attended nearly all of the annual meetings of the juice and wine grape grower associations, the Washington State Grape Society and Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers, to report on the latest research, and I’ve traveled throughout Washington, California, and New York to learn about wine regions. I’m now preparing to attend my twelfth grape growers convention on February 6–8 in Yakima, Washington.
Although the state’s grape industry was eager for the Good Fruit Grower to be a vehicle to communicate the latest trends to vineyardists, tree fruit readers have at times wondered why grape stories were interspersed in their magazine. Readers have mused, "Is this the Good Grape Grower?" and "Isn’t this a tree fruit magazine?"
Rest assured, tree fruit production will always be the heart of the magazine’s focus. But in the mid-1990s, orchardists struggling to stay profitable were eyeing the wine grape industry with envy, watching big prices being paid for wine grapes. Many of Washington’s major tree fruit producers are now also wine grape growers, with several owning wineries. We have strived to provide information that would help all those interested in wine grape production make wise and profitable decisions.
Washington’s wine industry has grown tremendously in the last decade, from around 80 wineries and 15,000 acres when I attended my first grape growers annual meeting in 1996, a meeting of fewer than 100 people, to more than 500 wineries and 35,000 acres. More than 1,000 people attended the grape growers’ annual meeting and trade show last year.
The Good Fruit Grower also believed both industries could learn from each other. The wine industry was young, just starting to build its industry infrastructure and reputation, but already it was zeroed in on producing high-quality grapes and wine. The established tree fruit industry is highly organized and funds numerous advocate organizations that represent growers and packers in state and federal matters. Additionally, it has an industry-funded, comprehensive research program that ranks among the best in the nation.
This issue takes a close look at Washington’s current viticulture and enology research program and long-range plans. The subject of research funding is not just a grape or Washington issue but also affects tree fruit growers as federal research dollars shrink.
We hope the information is relevant to both tree fruit and grape growers, stimulating thought and discussion in future research funding decisions.