Three vineyard areas are established near the Elrod Road entrance to the University
Farm. Students and faculty members established our Educational Vineyard in 2008 from
cuttings taken from Dr. Dan Crocker's vineyard in Franklin. This vineyard (lying west
of the greenhouse) comprises 150 vines of American origin ('Concord', 'Niagara', etc.),
French-Hybrid cultivars such as 'Villard Noir' and a few European cultivars such as
'Riesling' and 'Gruner Veltliner'. This vineyard is the primary site for hands-on
training of students enrolled in HORT 426 (Viticulture), HORT 475 (Advanced Viticulture)
and AGRI 475 (Summer Vineyard Operations). Students are instructed in dormant pruning,
canopy management techniques, fertility applications, and trellising systems. Grapes
harvested from this vineyard are marketed to local school systems (seedless cultivars)
and sold at Farmer's Markets.
In 2009 an additional 144 vines of French-Hybrid cultivars 'Chambourcin' and 'Villard Blanc' were planted on the eastern side of the greenhouse by faculty and students. This vineyard has served as a research site for two graduate students. Fruit harvested from this vineyard (3100 lbs. this past season) is marketed to Crocker Family Winery of Franklin, KY.
Our newest vineyard was planted in the springs of 2011 and 2012 and contains 550 vines of European origin. Example cultivars include: 'Cabernet Sauvignon', 'Malbec', 'Grenache', and 'Syrah'. Being of European origin, these vines should produce fruit of the highest quality and are thus planned to be our source of fruit for a future winemaking facility. Additionally, students from the Advanced Viticulture class assisted myself and our Viticulture Technician in the establishment of a research project at this site. The purpose of the experiment is to investigate and compare various strategies designed to reduce cold temperature injury to grafted vines.
In total, our vineyards contain more than 15 cultivars and 5 trellising systems; this diversity lends itself to instruction of students, tour groups and individual visitors to the site. During the past year more than 300 visitors have been given vineyard tours. In addition to our 3 Viticulture course offerings, graduate student and Certified Wine Specialist Blake Layne is now offering 2 new courses (Wine Fundamentals and Wine, Food and Film). Plans for the near future include additional plantings of seedless cultivars, establishment of a student club (Viticulture Club), development of internship partnerships with local and regional vineyards/wineries, and launching of a Facebook page.
Submitted by: Dr. Todd Willian
Planting a vineyard at the WKU Agricultural Research and Education Complex (2011)