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  • Author or Editor: Mick O’Neill x
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Commercial wine grape (Vitis sp.) production in northwestern New Mexico and the greater Four Corners region is now supported by four wineries. The challenges of growing grape vines in northwestern New Mexico include cold winter temperatures and killing spring frosts exacerbated by a semiarid climate and elevations exceeding 1700 m. Nineteen nongrafted European wine grape (Vitis vinifera) and interspecific hybrid wine grape cultivars were planted in 2007 and evaluated between 2010 and 2012. Among European wine grape cultivars, Agria, Malbec, Sangiovese, Viognier, Müller-Thurgau, and Sauvignon Blanc performed poorly or failed altogether. Interspecific hybrid cultivars Baco Noir, Kozma 55, Leon Millot, Chardonel, Seyval Blanc, Siegfried, Traminette, Valvin Muscat, and Vidal Blanc showed greater adaptability to a high-elevation intermountain western U.S. site, yielding on greater than 71% of their vines in each year (except Kozma 55 which only produced on 38% of its vines in 2012 due to severe spring frost damage). We speculate that fruit-bearing shoots on these vines arose from latent buds that survived when primary buds were killed from spring frost events. Once vines were established, grape berry sugar and pH appeared to be within acceptable ranges (3-year mean above 21% soluble solids and juice pH of 3.2), suggesting regional potential to produce favorable wines within acceptable commercial wine grape production ranges. Selection of sites without considerable frost risk and other mesoclimate variances is critical when considering vineyard establishment at high-elevation locations.

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