Climate change could tip Carson Valley toward grapes |

Climate change could tip Carson Valley toward grapes

While Bently Heritage is growing grains for their distillery, conditions in Carson Valley may be shifting to become favorable to another alcohol progenitor, grapes.

In a “Scientific American” article published in January related to the effects climate change may have on the vineyards of Napa and Sonoma, a map shows that Western Nevada could inherit a climate more friendly to wine grape cultivation.

The University of Nevada, Reno, has been growing grapes in its own vineyard for 20 years. Professor Grant Cramer is offering a workshop on grape growing April 4.

Cramer said the map was based on a report where scientists processed 30 different climate models in order to see what the weather will be like in 2040.

“Basically, knowing what (climatologists) did about what grapes require to grow, they proposed areas that will be too warm and areas that are going to be just right,” he said.

As it turns out Western Nevada’s climate for grape growing is predicted to improve.

“You can already see it happening,” he said. “I certainly am seeing it here in Reno. Since 2000 we’ve had a considerable increase in growing degree days that are necessary for grapes to mature.”

He said that last year saw buds break on the grape vines on April 15, the earliest he’s seen them.

“That’s great if the weather stays mild over night,” he said. “The problem is that we have these nice weather spells, then an Alaska cold front comes in. It’s really hard on the vines.”

That problem is compounded in Carson Valley where late frosts often arrive during May, affecting grapes and other fruit producers.

“Down in Minden, frost is the biggest issue,” he said. “You are more prone to frost, and that may still be a limiting factor.”

Key to growing grapes is finding the right location to plant, Cramer said.

“Overall our conditions are improving,” he said. “We’ve seen that in our vineyard. If you’re going to plant grapes, put them on a little bit of a hillside.”

Cramer is a professor with the College of Agriculture, who has been doing research on growing plants in adverse conditions, including salt-water irrigation, drought and cold.

The workshop is 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Washoe County Cooperative Extension Office, 4955 Energy Way in Reno. Cost to attend is $40 per person. You can register by visiting, or contact Ashley Andrews at 775-784-4848.