COLUMBIA, MO (KFVS & U of MO EXTENSION SERVICE) - By Linda Geist
Dean Volenberg is a new viticulture and winery operations specialist for University of Missouri Extension.
Volenberg began work in February as assistant extension professor for MU's Grape and Wine Institute (GWI). He will work with Missouri's 132 wineries and 150 grape growers. He will help growers expand their operations and elevate the quality of their grapes and wines.
"Good wines start in the vineyards," he says.
He hopes his work translates into enhancing the Missouri grape and wine industries, ultimately resulting in new varietal and premium native Missouri wines for consumers and visitors. He says people enjoy tasting locally grown foods, and that includes wines. "You want to taste what is local."
Volenberg's previous studies on viticulture—the study of grapes—focused on cold-hardiness, quality and managing insects and diseases. He plans to produce a weekly newsletter on integrated pest management for grape growers during the growing season, as he did at University of Wisconsin Extension.
During his eight years in Wisconsin he conducted three cultivar grape trials, helped develop culinary tours and promoted agritourism.
At GWI, Volenberg joins Arianna Bozzolo, an assistant research professor in viticulture who started last September, filling a position that had been vacant since late 2012, when Anthony Peccoux died in a car accident. Misha Kwansniewski, assistant research professor in enology, and four graduate students work on different research projects.
Now with MU's Grape and Wine Institute fully staffed, the faculty is poised to develop extension and research programs that serve the growing Missouri grape and wine industries. Extension outreach will not only educate but incorporate GWI research results from viticulture and enology (the science of making wines), Volenberg said.
"This team is determined to solve some of the evolving complexities of growing grapes and producing premium wines in a difficult continental climate," he said.
MU has research vineyards at agriculture experiment stations in Mount Vernon, Columbia and New Franklin.
Much of the institute's funding comes from the Missouri Wine and Grape Board, which directs funds from a statewide tax on wine sales for research, education and marketing.