RENO — The University of Nevada, Reno is getting into the wine business.
Volunteers helped plant hundreds of grapevines Sunday morning at the new vineyard at the school’s Main Station Farm in Reno.
UNR professor Grant Cramer said the school has been raising money for a year and working on selecting a location for the 1-acre farm that it hopes to someday turn into a commercial-sized facility.
“I think we have a great climate for Northern Nevada,” Cramer said.
The climate is similar to conditions in Washington state, which boasts a wine industry worth about $8.6 billion annually, he said.
“I would hope for a $5 billion industry in Northern Nevada,” Cramer said.
The vineyard is financed through university grants, but a large amount of private money will be needed to expand, Cramer said.
“This is expensive,” he said. “It’s about $20,000 an acre development for the system and irrigation lines.”
For now, the labor is free, with students doing much of the work.
“It’s great to be at the ground level, sort of starting this in Reno,” said Daniel Hopper, a biochemistry student.
The nonprofit Nevada Vines & Wines also is supporting the effort.
“The reason it’s a nonprofit is we will reinvest any of the money we have into new vineyards,” said Bill Coplin, the group’s president.
With just two commercial wineries in Northern Nevada, the market is small. But that could soon change, Cramer said. Recent studies suggest that by 2050, 70 percent of grape production will decline in California partly because of the expected effects of global warming, he said.
“Places like this (Northern Nevada) that are higher elevation, (farther) north and a little bit cool now are going to be just right in 30 years,” Cramer said.
The first bottle of wine produced from grapes at the Nevada vineyard is expected to be ready for sale within three years.