Severe winter damages buds at Finger Lakes vineyards

Created: 03/16/2014 12:01 PM WHEC.com
By: Julie Sherwood/Messenger Post

The Finger Lakes generally provide a nice cushion from severe winter cold for the vineyards covering much of the landscape in one of the state’s most scenic and profitable wine regions.

Not this year.

Even big Seneca Lake is frozen from one of the coldest winters in recent memory. With some vineyards in the region experiencing as much as 90 percent damage, managers are keeping close tabs on conditions.

Extended periods of record-low temperatures, ranging from 7 to 18 degrees below zero, have created a perfect storm for crop damage, according to Cornell Cooperative Extension, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand reported recently. Gillibrand is seeking a disaster declaration from U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to expedite federal assistance to upstate grape farms.

“We need these federal resources on the ground without delay so we can help our farms recover, and grow our economy,” stated Gillibrand, noting the state’s vineyards generate an estimated $4.8 billion annually toward the state’s economy. Jobs in New York’s wine and grape industry grew by 20 percent in the last decade, stated Gillibrand.

A watchful eye

One of those vineyards on Tuesday garnered attention in what is this season a routine activity for vineyard managers everywhere — doing the bud check.

“You look for green, that is a healthy bud,” said Don Riesenberger, vineyard manager for Heron Hill Estate Winery’s Keuka Lake vineyards.

“But if it’s brown, that is not good,” said Riesenberger, from Naples, who explained the layers of the bud and the tiny internal section are the keys to whether the bud will be a healthy grape producer.

Riesenberger demonstrated checking buds in Heron Hill’s Ingle Vineyard above Canandaigua Lake on Hicks Road with Ingle Vineyard Manager Kyle Franzini. Trekking in the mud between rows of several varieties grown in Ingle Vineyard, Franzini said damage so far appears to range from between 5 percent and 25 percent. While it doesn’t sound dramatic compared with losses in other Finger Lakes vineyards, in Ingle Vineyard, “we usually don’t see any numbers like these,” Franzini said.

Read the full story from the Messenger Post by clicking here.

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