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The Grape Regions Of America

There are four chief grape-growing regions in North America, with
possibly twice as many more subsidiary ones. These several regions,
each of which has its distinct varieties and to less extent distinct
species, and in each of which grapes are grown for somewhat widely
different purposes, give a great variety of industrial conditions to
the grape-growing of the continent. Nevertheless, the regions have
much in common in their environment. It is from their differences and
similarities that most can be learned in the brief discussions of the
regions that follow.

The Pacific slope.

The Pacific slope takes precedence among the grape regions of the
continent, exceeding all others combined in the production of grapes
and grape products. California is the viticultural center of this
great region, grapes being grown within her bounds from the foot of
Mount Shasta on the north to Mexico on the south and from the
foothills of the Sierras on the east to the forest that borders the
coast on the west. So outlined, California might appear to be one vast
vineyard, but it is only in favored valleys, plains and low hills in
the territory bounded that the vine is sufficiently well suited to be
productive. Outliers of this main region of the Pacific slope run
north into Oregon, Washington, Idaho and even into British Columbia,
forced more and more eastward the farther north to escape humidity
from the ocean which northward passes farther and farther inland.
Other outliers of the main region are found eastward in Nevada,
Arizona, New Mexico and even Utah and Colorado, though for the most
part in these states grape-growing is still insignificant. Plate I
shows typical vineyards in California.

The grapes grown on the Pacific slope are almost exclusively Vinifera
varieties, though a few American grapes are planted in the Pacific
Northwest. This is not because American varieties cannot be grown,
although they succeed rather less well here than on the eastern
seaboard, but because the Viniferas are liked better, and climate and
soil seem exactly to suit them. Viticulture on the Pacific slope is
divided into three interdependent industries which are almost never
quite independent of each other--the wine industry, raisin industry
and table-grape industry. Each of these industries depends on grapes
more or less specially adapted to the product, the special
characteristics being secured chiefly through somewhat distinct types
of grapes but depending partly on soil and climatic conditions. The
manufacture of unfermented grape-juice is not yet a success in this
region for the reasons that Vinifera grapes do not make a good
unfermented juice, and American grapes are not grown in sufficient
quantities to warrant the establishment of grape-juice plants.

Bioletti gives the extent of the grape-growing industry in California
as follows:[1]

"The vineyards of California covered in 1912 about 385,000 acres. Of
this total, about 180,000 acres were producing wine-grapes. Roughly,
50 per cent of the wine was produced in the great interior valleys,
including most of the sweet wines; 35 per cent was produced by the
valleys and hillsides of the Coast ranges, including most of the dry
wines; the remaining 15 per cent was produced in Southern California
and included both sweet and dry.

"The raisin-grape vineyards covered about 130,000 acres, of which
about 90 per cent were in the San Joaquin Valley, 7 per cent in the
Sacramento, and 3 per cent in Southern California.

"The shipping-grape vineyards are reckoned at 75,000 acres,
distributed about as follows: 50 per cent in the Sacramento Valley, 40
per cent in San Joaquin, 6 per cent in Southern California, and 4 per
cent in the Coast ranges."

The Chautauqua grape-belt.

The Chautauqua grape-belt, lying along the northeastern shore of Lake
Erie in New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio, is the second most important
grape region in America. The "belt" is a narrow strip of lowland
averaging about three miles in width, lying between Lake Erie and a
high escarpment which bounds the belt on the south throughout its
entire length of a hundred or more miles. Here climate and soil seem
to be exceptionally favorable for grape-growing. Climate is the chief
determinant of the boundaries of this belt, since there are several
types of soil upon which grapes do equally well in the region, and
when the climate changes at the two extremities of the belt where the
escarpment becomes low, or when the distance between the lake and the
escarpment is great, grape-growing ceases to be profitable.

The growers of this region are organized into selling associations so
that estimates of acreage and yields are obtainable. At present
writing, 1918, there are in this belt in New York about 35,000 acres
of grapes; in Pennsylvania and Ohio, about 15,000 acres, much the
greater part of which is in Pennsylvania. The average yield of grapes
to the acre for the region is about two tons. The average total
production for the past five years has been about 100,000 tons, of
which 65,000 tons are shipped as table-grapes, and 35,000 tons are
used in the manufacture of wine and grape-juice. Among varieties,
Concord reigns supreme in the Chautauqua belt. The writer, in 1906,
made a canvass of the region, vineyard by vineyard, and found that 90
per cent of the acreage of the belt was set to Concord, 3 per cent to
Niagara, 2 per cent to Worden and the remaining 5 per cent to a dozen
or more varieties of which Moore Early and Delaware led.

The manufacture of grape-juice on a commercial scale began in the
Chautauqua belt and most of this product is still produced in the
region. Here, only Concord grapes of the best quality are used for
grape-juice. The growth of this industry is most significant for the
future of grape-growing in the region. Twenty years ago grape-juice
was a negligible factor in the grape industry of this region; at
present, the annual output is in the neighborhood of 4,000,000
gallons. Grape-juice-makers now determine the price of grapes for the
region, and while the quantity used is less than that for
table-grapes, the time is not distant when it will be greater.

The Niagara region.

Fifty miles due north of the Chautauqua belt, across the end of Lake
Erie and the narrow isthmus of Niagara, is a smaller belt on the
southern shore of Lake Ontario so similar in soil, climate and
topography that in these respects the two regions might be considered
as identical. This is the Niagara region, Canada's chief
grape-producing area. It is bounded on the north by Lake Ontario; on
the south, at a distance of one to three miles by the high Niagara
escarpment; to the east it crosses the Niagara River into New York;
and in the west tapers to a point at Hamilton on the westward
extremity of Lake Ontario. Here, again, is the influence of climate
distinctly manifested. As this belt passes into New York, it widens
and the influence of Lake Ontario is less and less felt to the
eastward, and in consequence grape-growing becomes less and less

There were, according to the Ontario Bureau of Industries, in 1914,
about 10,850 acres of grapes in the Niagara region in Canada, and
possibly 4,000 acres more near the Niagara River and along the shore
of Lake Ontario in New York. The Niagara grape originated on the
American side of the Niagara region and is here planted more
extensively than elsewhere. Grape-growing in this region is similar in
all respects to that of the Chautauqua belt, the same varieties and
nearly identical methods of pruning, cultivation, spraying and
harvesting being employed. The crop is chiefly used as table-grapes
but the grape-juice industry is growing.

The Central Lakes region of New York.

In the central part of western New York are several remarkable bodies
of water known as the Central Lakes. Three of these are large and deep
enough to give ideal climatic conditions for grapes, and about these
lakes are grouped several important areas of vineyards, making this
the third most important grape region in America. The region assumes
further importance because most of the champagne made in America is
produced here, and it is the chief center of still wines in eastern
America as well. It is further distinguished by its distinctive types
of grapes, Catawba and Delaware taking the place of Concord and
Niagara, the sorts that usually predominate in eastern grape regions.

The main body of this region lies on the steep slopes of the high
lands surrounding Keuka Lake. On the shores of this lake there are,
approximately, 15,000 acres of grapes. Adjacent to this main body are
several smaller bodies about the neighboring lakes. Thus, at the head
of Canandaigua Lake and on its shores are about 2500 acres; near
Seneca and between Seneca and Cayuga Lakes there are probably 1500
acres more. In a few specially favored places on other of these
Central Lakes, there are possibly 1000 acres, making all told for this
region, about 20,000 acres. Again it is climate that sets the seal of
approval on the region for viticulture. In addition to the benefits of
deep bodies of water, high and sloping lands cause the frosts to cease
early in the spring and hold them in abeyance in the autumn, giving an
exceptionally long season.

Champagne-making began here about 1860; at present there are a score
or more manufacturers of champagne, wine and brandy, the output being
annually about 3,000,000 gallons of wine and 2,000,000 bottles of
champagne. Recently the manufacture of grape-juice has begun and the
industry is now flourishing.

Minor grape regions.

Viticulture is commercially important in several other regions than
those outlined. Thus, in the valley of the Hudson River, grapes have
been grown commercially for nearly a hundred years, the industry
reaching its height between 1880 and 1890, when there were 13,000
acres under cultivation. For some years, however, grape-growing along
the Hudson has been on the decline. Another region in which
viticulture reaches considerable magnitude is in several islands in
Lake Erie near Sandusky, Ohio, the product going largely for the
manufacture of wine. At one time grapes were grown commercially on the
banks of the Ohio River about Cincinnati and westward into Indiana.
The industry here, however, is a thing of the past. Another region in
which grape-growing was once of prime importance but now lags has its
center at Hermann, Missouri. The newest grape-producing area worthy of
note is in southwestern Michigan about the towns of Lawton and Paw
Paw. A small but very prosperous grape-growing region has its center
at Egg Harbor, New Jersey. Ives is the mainstay among varieties in
this region. In the southern states, Muscadine grapes are grown in a
small way in every part of the cotton-belt and varieties of other
native species are to be found in home vineyards in the upland
regions, but nowhere in the South can it be said that grape-growing is
a commercial industry.

Next: The Determinants Of Grape Regions

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