Growing Verona grapes organically in Pennsylvania

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2017: $14,832.00
Projected End Date: 02/28/2019
Grant Recipient: Mountain View Vineyard
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Randall Rice
Mountain View Vineyard


  • Fruits: grapes


  • Crop Production: crop improvement and selection, food product quality/safety, varieties and cultivars
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, networking
  • Farm Business Management: agritourism
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Sustainable Communities: employment opportunities, new business opportunities

    Proposal summary:

    We will experiment to see if we can grow a new hybrid wine grape (Verona) organically in Pennsylvania. If successful, this grape could bridge the gap between earth-friendly production techniques and quality wine not only in Pennsylvania but also across the northeast. Currently in Pennsylvania (and throughout much of the northeast), high quality vitis vinifera (like Chardonnay and Merlot) require frequent heavy chemical sprays to survive disease like black rot and mildew. Hardier hybrid grapes that require little to no spraying produce lackluster, unbalanced
    wines. Verona testing in Minnesota has shown the grape provides a trifecta of cold-hardiness, disease-resistance, and quality wine. We will attempt to replicate the results in Pennsylvania, which has a wetter climate that leads to more issues with black rot and mildew. We want to know: Can Verona vines be grown organically in Pennsylvania? Can they be grown sustainably using minimal synthetic chemicals? How much black rot, downy mildew, and powdery mildew appears on Verona vines grown in Pennsylvania with synthetic chemicals versus organic methods? Do organic fungicides (copper) cause chemical injury to leaves and other green tissues of Verona? For this experiment, we plan to plant two Verona plots; a control plot sprayed with minimal synthetic chemicals and a test plot sprayed with a certified organic application. Each week during the growing season we will measure how much disease is present on a sample of vines in each test block. Our outreach will include a field day, a news release, and a blog post.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    We propose to grow a newly-released varietal called Verona (T.P. 1-1-34). Industry magazine Wines and Vines notes, “[Verona red wines] have a good balance between acid, tannin, and alcohol.” Additionally, rose wines from Verona have, “lush vinifera-like fruit, good balance and finish.” This hybrid could be the long sought-after variety that can change perceptions about Pennsylvania wine. Our objective is to find out whether or not we can grow Verona vines organically in Pennsylvania. We want to find out how the vines deal with disease pressure in Pennsylvania's humid climate. Can they overcome mildew and black rot? Will organic disease treatment cause copper damage? We want to know not only if Verona will thrive in Pennsylvania but also if it will thrive using organic farming methods. We will measure the amount of disease and damage present on vines to reach our conclusions.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.