Although the Mad River Vineyard on East Warren Road has been there for four years, for many, it is still a novel sight.

"There really is a great deal of interest," said Tom Godolik of New Jersey, co-owner of the vineyard. "We're located right on the road and people are constantly stopping and asking us what we're doing."

"That's why we just put up the sign," laughed Joe Klimek, Waitsfield, the other owner.

On the weekend of August 21 and 22, Mad River Vineyard, along with vineyards and wineries around the state, will welcome the public for the first annual Vermont Winery and Vineyard Open House Weekend.

Wine production in Vermont has been on the rise over the last five years. The new availability of hybridized varieties of grapes that can thrive in harsher climates has enabled a boom in wine production in the Green Mountains.

"People don't realize it, but every state in the union, bar none, grows grapes," said Godolik. "Although it may sound like an industry that has no place in Vermont, it really has established itself quite successfully, in all corners of the state."

Godolik and Klimek began the Mad River Vineyard four years ago, one year after Klimek moved to the East Warren Road property. They are both long-term admirers of wine and have spent time touring vineyards everywhere from Italy to France to Sonoma, California.

Currently, they are cultivating three varieties of hybridized grapes. It all began with 500 vines of Marquette, a hybrid variety derived from pinot noir.

Godolik and Klimek will harvest their first commercial crop this fall. Their grapes will then be sold in bulk to a Vermont winery. The first bottles of wine made from Mad River Vineyard grapes will likely be available next summer.

"We've had a lot of fun. It's a lot of work, but it's interesting," said Godolik. "Having gone to all those other vineyards and getting a sense of what people do there, then coming here and doing it ourselves - it's very fulfilling."

Since the beginning of the Mad River Vineyard, Godolik and Klimek have been involved with the Vermont Grape and Wine Council, a statewide organization of vineyards and wineries. The council supports the industry by holding educational events, linking vineyards and wineries statewide and working with state agencies.

The council recently lobbied for legislation to support local grape producers. "We want to make sure the wine that is produced in the state is from Vermont-produced grapes," said Klimek. "Rules have been put in place so that in order to have a bottle of wine that says 'Made in Vermont' it has to be 75 percent from Vermont-grown grapes."

Across the state, vineyards and wineries are planning events as part of the council's Open House Weekend. While many wineries will offer tastings, vineyards like the Mad River Valley Vineyard will feature tours and discussions about the wine industry in Vermont.

"The industry has grown well enough now that it's time that we allow the public to really come in and see what this industry is all about," said Klimek.

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