Feb 15 2012
The News of Cumberland County (New Jersey) - by Lauren T. Taniguchi
Six New Jersey awardees have been selected to receive over $431,000 in business development assistance through the Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program of United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development.
Locally, the Outer Coastal Plain Vineyard Association, based at the Rutgers Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Upper Deerfield, has been awarded $33,332, announced USDA Rural Development State Director Howard Henderson with United States senators on Thursday.
“We’re basically adding value by changing grapes into wine and making it with grapes that grow very well in this area that will make a unique wine,” said Dr. Lawrence Coia, president of the Outer Coastal Plain Vineyard Association.
“This Value-Added Producer Grant is going to allow us to make a proprietary blend from the five grapes we grow most: cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, syrah — or ‘shiraz’ — and the hybrid grape chambourcin,” Coia explained.
“Those five will make a blend, and the goal with the grant is to determine how to put those grapes together to make a blend that’s quite good and consistent from winery to winery.”
The VAPG program is designed to assist eligible producers develop strategies to create marketing opportunities and technical assistance for their agriculture products. These grants help agricultural producer groups and independent producers, farmer and rancher cooperatives develop new products and secure new markets.
“These projects help support President Obama’s goal to strengthen rural economies and create jobs for agricultural producers, businesses and families in several rural communities throughout New Jersey,” Henderson said.
The Outer Coastal Plain Vineyard Association is a group of grape growers, some of whom are also winemakers, located in the Outer Coastal Plain American Viticultural Area (AVA) of New Jersey — 2.2 million acres of southern and central New Jersey. The group’s goals include establishing quality wine-growing practices and an identity for the Outer Coastal Plain AVA region.
“We’ve got a fair number of growers in Cumberland County,” Coia noted. “We mapped the whole state in terms of soil and climate, and Cumberland County has a very large percentage of soils and climate which make it amongst the best growing areas in New Jersey.”
Cumberland County’s Outer Coastal Plain Vineyard Association members include Cairone Farms, Celtic Wines, Coia Vineyards, Panther Branch Vineyard, Sunny Slope Farms and Tidewater Marsh Vineyard, according to the Association’s website.
With the VAPG funds, the Outer Coastal Plain Vineyard Association will establish tasting panels and get its member wineries together to make at least one barrel of its new proprietary blend of wine for an initial tasting process, Coia said. The group hopes to also involve top chefs from throughout the state to determine the characteristics of its unique wines and how to best pair them with food.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) said the VAPG funds will help strengthen rural New Jersey communities by helping agricultural producers grow and prosper.
“This is particularly important for the Garden State, where agriculture plays a key role in our economy,” Menendez added.
In fact, Coia estimated the grant to Outer Coastal Plain Vineyard Association could increase the revenue of area grape growers and winemakers by 25 percent, and could create about 250 jobs with vineyards, winemakers and retailers within five to 10 years.
“Small businesses make up the engine that keeps New Jersey’s economy moving,” said Sen. Lautenberg (D-NJ), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which funds the Department of Agriculture.
“These grants will help small agricultural businesses throughout our state increase their sales and create jobs. I will continue to fight for federal funding that expands job opportunities, supports small businesses and strengthens our state’s economy.”
Coia said the Association plans to brand its new blend of grapes with a name reflecting the Garden State’s bounty to advance its mission of promoting sustainable and economically viable viticulture in the Outer Coastal Plain AVA of New Jersey.