Local vineyards impacted by brutal winter

Created: 04/30/2014 5:57 PM WHEC.com
By: Josh Nichols

A lot of people are complaining about the rain Wednesday, but it is the cold winter that is still impacting our area. This is especially true for wineries.

Casa Larga Winery in Fairport is one of dozens of vineyards that felt some of the damaging effects of this year's brutal chill, which will impact wine, which is one of our region's most precious commodities.

This winter's crippling cold hit the Finger Lakes hard damaging area vineyards to different degrees. As a result, the entire region was declared a federal disaster area back in March, allowing growers in the Finger Lakes the opportunity to apply for assistance to replant or rehabilitate their vines.  

Vintners, throughout all of the Finger Lakes like Matt Cassavaugh at Casa Larga, are still evaluating the extent of the damage done to this season's crop, which does vary some. For example, there are some grape varietals that have been hit extremely hard to the point of total loss, while others, like Riesling, haven't been damaged as badly.

Matt Cassavaugh, Casa Larga, said, “Each variety kind of reacts differently to the cold. Some are better adapted to it than others. More susceptible varieties like Merlot, for example, is one everyone heard of, seems to be some pretty heavy damage on that variety in the area. But other things like Riesling is a little more susceptible and some of our more hybrid grapes really do a good job standing up to this. You won't see as much damage on the colder varieties.”

Chris Missick, Villa Bellangelo Winery, said, “In our field, in particular, you can see 40% damage in Merlot and then you get into a hybrid and you see almost no damage whatsoever.”

Chris Missick owns and operates Villa Bellangelo Winery in Dundee, which is in the southern Finger Lakes. He's also seen a lot of bud and even trunk damage from the cold to his vines this year and is concerned about just how this will affect the crop yield come harvest time.

Chris Missick, Villa Bellangelo Winery, said, "The thing it will impact would be quantity because if we do have bud damage and we aren’t able to adjust for it with pruning techniques, we'll have less fruit on the vine. Less fruit means less wine.”

Now while we know that some vineyards were hit hard by this year's extreme winter chill, we also don't quite yet know the extent of all the damage, as some vineyards had more damage than others. Some grape varietals had more damage than others. The good news is the quality of the wine will still be there when you go to the store, even if there is less quantity.

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