FARMINGTON — John and Patty Cormier, owners of Kennebec Home Brew Supplies at 235 Farmington Falls Road, might be the first operation in the state growing grapes for wine production in a hoop house.

“There are 28 wineries on the Maine Wine Trail. Many grow their own grapes,” Patty Cormier said. “We’re just that much further North that we can’t do it here.”

She added that professionals with Cooperative Extension and Natural Resources Conservation Service know of no one else in Maine using hoop houses.

The 20-by-40-foot hoop house was erected in late June. Members of the Farmington Fire Department, Paul Brown and Bob Gramlich assisted. A call for volunteers, like a barn-raising, was put out on Facebook.

“I’m just the guy that helped build it,” John Cormier said. “Bob figured it all out.”

Twenty Frontenac grape vines were planted in the house afterward. Rose bushes were planted outside.

Traditionally, rose bushes are planted at the end of every row in vineyards in California and Europe as they are susceptible to the same diseases and act as an early warning system.

“Frontenac is the first cold-hardy grape introduced to the public for folks in the Northeast,” Patty Cormier said. “It’s pretty popular. It’s dark purple with a high sugar content.”

She said they are still learning, but expect to triple production. Controlling the amount of water and when it is applied is key.

“Grapes go through a vegetative growth cycle. Water is restricted then. Water is added for fruit production. Diseases such as molds and mildews are reduced when rainfall is removed,” Patty Cormier said.

She said grapes can be grown locally but the sugar content is lower.

“You can make a good wine,” she said. “This will let us make a great wine. We’re pretty excited about it”

The one-year vines will not produce fruit this year because they were planted late. Twenty more one-year vines will be planted in the hoop house next year.

The Cormiers hope grapes will be produced on all the vines next fall. They expect to produce at least 90 bottles of wine from the harvest. They are working on a name for it.

Vegetables and herbs will also be grown in the hoop house to sell in their store.

The house will be heated with propane to prevent the grape buds from freezing and get things growing early. The growing season will be extended by at least six weeks.

Patty said while NRCS paid for a good portion of the hoop house, it will pay for itself fairly soon. She plans to apply for another hoop house next year.

The Cormiers will host educational workshops and hold wine tastings in the hoop house.

For information, call 778-5276, or visit www.facebook.com/kennebechomebrew.

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