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Business and the Economy

Ozarks Wine, Other Products Available at MSU-Mountain Grove

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Credit Michele Skalicky / KSMU
MSU Fruit Experiment Station

Research taking place at Missouri State University’s Mountain Grove campus is helping commercial vineyards.  And the grapes and other fruit grown for research are being used to help fund the program.  KSMU’s Michele Skalicky visited the campus and has more.

Walk into the winery at the Missouri State University Fruit Experiment Station in Mountain Grove and you’ll see big stainless steel vats and other equipment used to produce wine sold by Mountain Grove Cellars.

There’s a labeler, a cooler, a corker, a de-stemmer, a presser…and wine.  This is where they bottle the product and sometimes where they ferment the grapes.

"We have red wine in here right now.  We have some Catawba Light in the stainless steel, so this is just where we do filtering and where we do part of our processing," he said.

According to Dr. Karl Wilker, research professor and wine maker and distiller on the Mountain Grove campus, they started making wine about ten years ago.  He says Mountain Grove Cellars produces general table wines.

We have reds,

A commercially-licensed distillery is next door.  He says they’re currently in the developmental stages of producing rum.

According to Wilker, they started making wine on campus about ten years ago.  He says Mountain Grove Cellars produces general table wines.

"We've got reds, we've got some sweet Catawba, we have some fortified wines, ports," he said.

They also offer spirits such as a neutral brandy called Grape Shine.  In the past they’ve made liqueurs of various fruits including peaches, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries.

The campus also sells fresh fruit from the research plantings during the growing season.

The money made from selling the products goes back into research and educating students.

"We use it for enology, which is wine and viticulture, which is the grape growing program," he said.

Wilker is still learning about the art of distilling, but he hopes to one day offer workshops and lectures on it. 

He has a favorite of the products they make.

"I think I like the Grape Shine best.  It's kind of similar to a vodka, but it has a little bit more character to it," he said.

Tastings are offered by appointment.  Wine and spirits are available for purchase at Brown Derby International Wine Center and HyVee in Springfield and online.  Other products offered include elderberry juice, preserves and syrup, honey and blueberry jam. 

The grapes (they have about seven varieties) and other fruit used to manufacture the wine and spirits and other products are grown at the Mountain Grove campus for research.  Dr. Wenping Qiu is a research professor at MSU and the director of the Center for Grapevine Biotechnology.  In 2009, he discovered the first DNA virus ever reported in grapevines—the grapevine vein clearing virus or GVCV—in a Missouri commercial vineyard.  The virus, he says, can be devastating for growers because it slowly kills the plant.

"This virus has caused serious problems to some of the vineyards.  In fact, two or three vineyards have been pulled out because of this virus," he said.

He suspected the virus originated in wild grapevines, so he and his students set out to determine if that was, in fact, the case.  They detected it in one vine, and though they don’t yet know how it spreads from plant to plant, they have a theory.

"We speculate that it is transferred from vine to vine by insects," he said.

They’re working to identify which insects spread the virus.  They’re also working to determine the genetics of the virus both in the commercial vineyards and in the wild grapevine population.

He says there’s not yet an effective cure for the virus, but they can prevent it from spreading.  To do that, they offer virus-tested, clean vines.

"We test those vines for major viruses to make sure that those vines are free of these viruses," he said.

The vines are available for purchase.  Find more information here

He says there are currently four graduate students working in the lab at the MSU Fruit Experiment Station, and three are focusing on GVCV.