Growing grapes in a unique way in Farmington

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Kennebec Home Brew Supplies owners Patty and John Cormier, Farmington, stand in their new hoop house. This is perhaps the first instance in Maine of wine grapes being grown under cover to increase production and reduce water-born diseases. (Pam Harnden/Franklin Journal)

FARMINGTON — John and Patty Cormier, owners of Kennebec Home Brew Supplies, 235 Farmington Falls Road, may be the first operation in the state growing grapes for wine production in a hoop house.

“There are 28 wineries on the Maine Wine Trail. Many grow their own grapes. We’re just that much further North that we can’t do it here,” Patty said.

Patty said professionals with Cooperative Extension and Natural Resources Conservation Service know of no one else in Maine using hoop houses.

The 20-by-40-foot hoop house was erected in late June. Members of the Farmington Fire Department, Paul Brown and Bob Gramlich assisted. A call for volunteers, like a barn-raising, was put out on Facebook beforehand.

“I’m just the guy that helped build it. Bob figured it all out,” John said.

Twenty Frontenac grape vines were planted in the house afterward. Rose bushes were planted outside. Traditionally rose bushes are planted at the end of every row in vineyards in California and Europe as they are susceptible to the same diseases and act as an early warning system.

Following the tradition of planting roses at the end of every row in a vineyard, John and Patty Cormier planted roses outside their new hoop house where grapes for wine production are being grown. The roses are said to attract pests that also affect grape vines. (Pam Harnden/Franklin Journal)

“Frontenac is the first cold-hardy grape introduced to the public for folks in the Northeast. It’s pretty popular. It’s dark purple with a high sugar content,” Patty said.

She said they are still learning, but expect to triple production. Controlling the amount of water and when it is applied is key.

“Grapes go through a vegetative growth cycle. Water is restricted then. Water is added for fruit production. Diseases such as molds and mildews are reduced when rainfall is removed,” Patty said.

She said grapes can be grown locally but the sugar content is lower.

“You can make a good wine. This will let us make a great wine. We’re pretty excited about it,” Patty said.

The one-year vines will not produce fruit this year as they were planted late. Twenty more one-year vines will be planted in the hoop house next year.

Frontenac grape vines grow in a hoop house at Kennebec Home Brew Supplies, 235 Farmington Falls Road, Farmington. The hoop house is expected to increase sugar content and triple grape production. (Pam Harnden/Franklin Journal)

The Cormiers hope grapes will be produced on all the vines next fall. They expect to produce at least 90 bottles of wine from the harvest. They are working on a name for it.

Vegetables and herbs will also be grown in the hoop house to sell in their store.

The house will be heated with propane to prevent the grape buds from freezing and get things growing early. The growing season will be extended by at least six weeks.

Patty said while NRCS paid for a good portion of the hoop house, it will pay for itself fairly soon. She plans to apply for another hoop house next year.

The Cormiers will host educational workshops and hold wine tastings in the hoop house.

For more information call 778-5276 or visit the Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/kennebechomebrew.

pharnden@sunmediagroup.net

 

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