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      Good grape harvest means economic benefits for Missouri

      After last year's devastating drought, mid-Missouri's grape growers are on the rebound - this year's grape harvest in the region is expected to be a good one.

      A harvest goes beyond the good grapes, however. When the grapes grow, so does mid-Missouri's economy. This year, the grapes are doing just fine, says enologist Dr. Misha Kwasniewski. "The drought was devastating, especially for those who didn't have enough irrigation or didn't plan for drought-like conditions," Kwasniewski said. "It's hard to plan for a 100 year drought event, people hope it won't happen to them."

      Kwasniewski says a lot goes into growing a good crop, but a lot of it depends on the weather. In terms of prime conditions for growing grapes, he says this year has been a good one for growing grapes.

      "This year, except for the intense rain of the spring, we've had nice rain intervals to keep the vines happy," Kwasniewski said. "The vines are happy, everything growing, and I think it looks great going into harvest at this point."

      About 90% of mid-Missouri's grapes go towards producing wine - big wineries like Les Bourgeois grow their own, but they also buy grapes locally from around 150 nearby vineyards. Then they process the grapes and turn them into red and white wine that mostly ends up on mid-Missouri's supermarket shelves. Winemaker Jacob Holman says, the grapes are intertwined with other parts of Missouri's economy.

      "The wine industry in Missouri is valuable to the tourism industry, because many of the vineyards are located around the Missouri river," Holman said. "We have a long history of grape production here in Missouri, so I think it comes natural."'

      With so much of the region's grape production tied to the wine and tourism industries, the outcome of a crop of grapes holds its importance with more than just the farmers. "Missouri grape sales were about $4 million last year," Kwasniewski said. "The retail of wine in the state is about $60 million. They are estimating that plays into about $1.5 billion dollars per year in tourism and recreation in Missouri."

      That's why growers and wineries alike are grateful that this year's harvest will trickle out a success - for the grape eater, the wine drinker and the state's economy. ã??