Last month I wrote an article about Senator Tom Coburn’s outrage over wineries receiving taxpayer money as part of the USDA Block Grant program. A number of Virginia wineries and wine-related organizations received sizable grants as part of the program.
Though none of the wineries I contacted would comment on how they plan to spend the USDA grant funds, an article written by Amy Loeffler, posted on the Virginia Tech website, indicates that some of that grant money was used to develop a new online tool to help Virginia winemakers pair the right grapes with the right land.
Called the Virginia Viticultural Suitability Investigative Tool, this new application reportedly can help keep future winemakers from costly mistakes in planting grape vines on inappropriate soil or in poor climates and also can shave off countless hours of evaluating soil study maps on paper.
In development for two years, the application uses GIS data to help take the guesswork out of which grapes are best suited for a vineyard’s land.
Though no online tool can replace walking the land and testing the soils of a potential vineyard site, I imagine this application may save much time and money when scouting potential new vineyards.
Out of curiosity, I ran a Vineyard Evaluation Report on my backyard, which includes analysis of soil, climate, topography, soil pH, bulk density, saturated hydraulic conductivity, organic matter, soil depth, and available water capacity.
Since my neighbor’s lawn is greener (thereby presumably healthier) than mine, I included his lot in my query. Not even my neighbor’s perfect dark green fescue nor the cool evening and morning breeze coming off the lake could help our land suitability.
According to the various calculated metrics, the soil in my backyard ranges from Unsuitable to Poor. My land scored a 16 out of possible 100. Scuppernong, if we’re lucky!
I also ran reports of some of Virginia’s most notable vineyard sites — some surprising results!
Admittedly I do not posses the agricultural background to fully understand or appreciate the capabilities of this application, but the tool does have some limitations that are clear even to casual observers. Since the vineyard evaluation report is based on ‘automatic interpretation’ of data it doesn’t take into account all the nuances of a potential vineyard site that can only be determined on the ground. There also exists the possibility that the analysis is, well, wrong.
Regardless, a cool and interesting tool — try it out!
I’m curious what vintners — or future vintners — think of the Virginia Viticultural Suitability Investigative Tool?
Hat tip wine writer Jim Raper for sharing a link to this new tool.