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North Country becoming wine country for local grape growers

WILLSBORO - Richard C. Lamoy seems to have the golden touch.

The Morrisonville man won medals for six of eight entries he submitted earlier this year to a winemaking competition in Manchester, Vt., sponsored by WineMaker Magazine. Five of the six award-winning wines were made with the first substantial harvest of cold-hardy grape varieties planted at the Cornell University agricultural research station at the E.V. Baker Farm in Willsboro. The grapes were planted as part of a research trial funded by the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program.

Though the competition has come and gone, Lamoy's interest in researching growing grapes in the often cold climate of the North Country has not.

"The colder regions of the state are quite capable of growing wine grapes, as demonstrated by the success of the trial vineyard in Willsboro and other plantings here," said Lamoy. "Since there has been little work done in studying the best grapes and how to grow the best grapes for wine, research work needs to be done in those areas. The trial vineyard is one step in that direction."

Michael Davis, manager of the E.V. Baker Farm, said the research facility has been working with Lamoy since 2005, as well as partnering agencies like the Lake Champlain Grape Growers Association, Cornell Grape Program, Cornell Wine Analytical Lab and the New York Farm Viability Institute. The objective, said Davis, has been to learn more about grape growing in colder temperatures. The research so far has provided much insight into the difference in varieties of grapes, he said.

"If you look at the traditional French wine grapes, they have a much milder climate than what we're working with here in the North Country," said Davis. "They don't have to withstand the really cold, winter temperatures. So, what breeders have done, is they've tried to develop grapes that have good wine qualities that will tolerate cold weather."

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