Record low temperatures plagues Finger Lakes vineyards

Updated: 03/23/2014 11:12 PM
Created: 03/23/2014 6:57 PM WHEC.com
By: Rachel Spotts

Months of record low temperatures have left miles of damage to local vineyards and many owners are worried.

The owner of Eagle Crest Vineyard in Conesus say he is used to seeing some damage to his crops, especially during the winter, but he says he hasn’t seen anything like this in years.

William Ouweleen knows a lot about growing grapes. He owns Eagle Crest Vineyard, a grape farm in Conesus that’s been operating well over 100 years. Located in the Finger Lakes area, Ouweleenl says his vineyard is used to cold weather, but this winter has been so bad, it could leave him with little crop to sell.  

William Ouweleen , owner, said, “Depending on the site, it can be 50 to 100 percent loss in a winter like this.”

And that means a frigid outlook for business.

Ouweleen said, “I’ve spoken to other growers throughout the Finger Lakes and they're reporting 50 to 90 bud damage, which translates to a loss in yield or simply put, a loss in grapes for the year.”

Ouweleen says he's just starting to sample his buds to see how damaged they are. After cutting off certain vines, he then checks for bud health. Green is good, brown is not.

Ouweleen said, “If we find significant bud damage, we will maybe do less pruning or only selective thinning to leave the vines more potential to produce fruit.”

And producing fruit is a big part of the state's economy. Across New York, vineyards generate almost five billion dollars a year. So to help upstate grape farms bounce back, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is seeking federal assistance.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said, “We are trying to get them reimbursed for their loses. So whatever their losses add up to is what we're trying to get.”

Until then, Ouweleen speaks for all wineries when he says, bear with us.

Ouweleen said, “We ask for our customers’ patience to stick with us and continue to support local agriculture and local wineries because it's really proving to be a significant economic boom to upstate New York.”

Ouweleen said he won't know the full extent of the damage to his vineyard until the weather warms up and temperatures stay above freezing overnight. He also said that wine drinkers can breathe easy because prices likely won't change.

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