Create a free Industrial Equipment News account to continue

Ukrainian Winemakers Visit Napa Valley to Learn How to Heal War-Ravaged Vineyards

Today, more than 30% of Ukraine's land is filled with landmines.

A tour of a Grgich Hills Estate's vineyard to visiting Ukrainian winemakers.
A tour of a Grgich Hills Estate's vineyard to visiting Ukrainian winemakers.
AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vรกsquez

RUTHERFORD, Calif. (AP) โ€” As the head of an association of winemakers in southern Ukraine, Georgiy Molchanov knows a lot about how to cultivate grapes; not so much how to grow them amid undetonated mines.

But that was the situation he found himself in after a Russian rocket dropped the explosives on his vineyard near the port city of Mykolaiv in August 2022, six months after Russia invaded. The damage โ€” and danger โ€” the mines brought to his business marked one of the myriad catastrophic effects the more than 2-year-old war has had on the eastern European country.

Now, thanks to the combined efforts of the international nonprofit organization Roots of Peace, Rotary International, and the Grgich Hills Estate winery in Napa Valley, Molchanov is taking the steps he needs to reclaim and heal his wounded land.

First, Roots of Peace and Rotary International provided him with the expertise and supplies he needed to safely detonate the mines. Then, the groups teamed up to bring him and five other Ukrainian winemakers to Grgich Hills in Rutherford. During a weeklong stay here, they learned about regenerative organic farming, an agricultural method that prioritizes soil health and ecosystem balance.

Tsybak said Russian troops are staked out about 4 miles (7 kilometers) from her vineyard but the war hasn't directly affected her operations. Her winery started exporting wine to the United States six months ago. She said she wants to learn how to expand the presence of Ukrainian wine in the U.S. market.

Heidi Kuhn, a California peace activist who founded Roots of Peace, has worked for decades to remove landmines from war-ravaged land that she later helps to convert into vineyards, orchards and vegetable fields. Rotary International, which has collaborated for years with Roots of Peace, helped plan the program for the Ukrainian winemakers and funded their travel to California.

In 2000, Kuhn worked with the founder of Grgich Hills Estate, the late Croatian immigrant Miljenko "Mike" Grgich, and other vintners to raise funds to clear landmines in Vukovar in eastern Croatia. The town, located in a winemaking region on the banks of the Danube, was reduced to rubble during the 1991-95 war in the former Yugoslavia.

Ivo Jeramaz, Grgich's nephew, a native Croatian and a winemaker at Grgich Hills Estate, said he feels deeply for Ukrainians because he understands how heart-wrenching it is to live through war. He said the family winery has for decades helped Roots of Peace.

More in Food & Beverage