From vines to wines in Idaho

Idaho isn’t just about potatoes these days. Students are learning viticulture to work in the state’s growing wine industry, reports the Idaho Press-Tribune.

CALDWELL — On a warm, breezy summer afternoon, five men walk between leafy rows of grape vines on a hillside overlooking the Snake River Valley.

As they pass a row of Riesling vines, Martin Fujishin, a viticulture instructor from Treasure Valley Community College, stops. He bends toward a vine, fingers it, then drops his head for a closer look and smell. Concentration overtakes his face as he scrutinizes the vine.

. . . The leaves show a dull, unhealthy color with a crinkly texture, and the young grapes fall apart in loose clusters.

One student suggests that they should smell for powdery mildew. Another says they should look for mealybug eggs. Or perhaps the two-spotted spider mite.

. . . Eventually they decide that the vines are probably recovering from a previous infestation of mealybugs, exacerbated by the stress from the drift of herbicides from a nearby wheat field.

Students in TVCC’s new two-year viticulture program learn about growing grapes in the classroom, then go out to tend vines. The grapes will be made into wine sold around the country.