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Gill Giese joined New Mexico State University July 3 as the Extension viticulture specialist. (NMSU photo by Kristie Garcia) JUL17

Experienced Winemaker Named new Viticulturist at NMSU

When you take a sip of your favorite wine, you most likely savor the delicious flavors and take in the distinct aromas. But you probably don’t think about the science behind that smooth, tasty beverage.

Gill Giese certainly knows the science behind wine. And he just joined New Mexico State University as its Extension viticulture specialist.

Giese spent the last four years as a commercial winemaker at Shelton Vineyards in Dobson, North Carolina. Spanning over 100 acres, more than 400 tons of grapes are grown and processed from the vineyard each year, where Giese and his staff bottled between 25,000 and 30,000 bottles of wine annually. Giese will bring his viticultural and winemaking knowledge to the NMSU College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences beginning this month.

Giese – who is located at the Agricultural Science Center at Los Lunas – will also serve as an assistant professor for NMSU Extension Plant Sciences. For 12 years, he was the lead instructor for viticulture and enology at Surry Community College, also in Dobson.

Giese earned his doctorate in horticulture from Virginia Tech. He received a bachelor of science in agriculture and master of science in horticulture from the University of Arkansas.

Rolston St. Hilaire, interim department head of NMSU Extension Plant Sciences, said NMSU will benefit from Giese’s expertise.

“Dr. Giese brings both a wealth of industry experience and a solid academic background to NMSU’s Extension Plant Sciences Viticulture Program,” St. Hilaire said.

Not only did he teach at Surry Community College, he established its viticulture and enology two-year degree program and curriculum.

As a research specialist for six years with the University of Arkansas Food Science Department, he managed a six-acre research vineyard and pilot winery.

Jon Boren, NMSU Cooperative Extension Service associate dean and director, said Giese’s experiences with various aspects of wine should benefit New Mexico as a whole.

“Dr. Gill Giese is bringing over 20 years of experience in grape production and winemaking to New Mexico,” Boren said. “He has experience conducting educational programs, teaching in classroom and informal settings, conducting academic research and working in commercial wineries. He will be a tremendous resource for the New Mexico Cooperative Extension Service in the College of ACES and for the producers and winemakers in the state.”

Giese’s appointment at NMSU is 75 percent Extension and 25 percent research. This combination – in addition to the state’s unique wine history – is what attracted him to NMSU.

“This position combined both teaching and research, and along with the challenging growing environment in New Mexico, I found this opportunity to be very interesting,” Giese said.

The growing conditions in New Mexico are challenging mainly due to the wide variety and diversity of vineyard sites, as well as significant changes in temperature.

“I’ve been talking to New Mexico winegrowers who have been successful overcoming different challenges, such as heat during ripening and survivability during the winter,” Giese said.

In addition to addressing growing challenges, one of Giese’s priorities is to help growers increase both quality and production efficiency.

“I want to work with county Extension Service agents to help growers,” he said. “I’d like to get all the growers on the same page, help them improve wine quality and facilitate marketing in order to make a consistent profit.”

Giese understands the importance of the economic impact the wine industry has on the state.

“Wine has a rippling effect on the economy, whether it’s the agricultural and winery related supply chains, retail and restaurants, or festivals” he said. “New Mexico is a beautiful state with a storied wine history, and tourism is part of the modern economy. Wine can play a major role in tourism, as it is threaded throughout history and the human experience.”

Author:  Kristie Garcia – NMSU

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