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.

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