Gu calls his approach to improving the quality of San Joaquin Valley wine grapes “unconventional.” That is an understatement. “Some people do not believe what we are doing and some get really excited and want to try it,” Gu says.

Gu is proving academically it can be done. The questions are is the wine better and is it economical to do?

He has not made commercial wine from the crop forced grapes, but says that is the next step along with an economic analysis of the crop stripping.

While Gu’s vine summer stripping has been done by hand, which is very expensive, Fresno State operates a wide array of commercial machinery on other research trials that can strip leaves and bunches off vines. He said mechanization is the next step in his unorthodox research approach.

Gu said an economist is joining in the research effort this year to see if this “makes sense economically at what price points.”

There is a huge disparity over wine grape prices from the valley to the coastal area. The valley’s Cabernet Sauvignon crop brought $485 per ton last year compared to more than $2,000 per ton for Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma County and almost $950 per ton from Monterey County.

The quality of valley grapes can be improved dramatically. The question is will wineries pay for it?

Gu’s work is not just about quality. He points out that crop forcing could be used when a grower loses a crop to frost when primary clusters are destroyed. It could also be used to open up even warmer regions of the state to premium wine grape production.