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January 2013 Issue of Wines & Vines
 
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Vintage 2012

A special vintage on the West Coast, and a sunny but smaller harvest in the East

 
by Andrew Adams
 
 
Speaking to Wines & Vines shortly after he concluded harvest, Bill Pesonen sounded almost giddy when describing the most recent vintage.

Pesonen is the winemaker and co-owner of William Gordon Winery in Cloverdale, Calif. He said the winery’s Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes turned out to be excellent. “Everything came together perfectly, and there was no rain,” he said. “We’re truly gifted.”

He said that as he tasted the wines through fermentation and pressing they exhibited a wonderful balance and flavors. “Every time we pressed out some of the must, just consistently very good aromas and flavors,” Pesonen said.

The vintner is not alone in his estimation of the 2012 harvest. Across California, winemakers and growers shed their usual reserve to praise the most recent growing season. Unlike in previous years, the harvest hype pushed by winery marketing staff and regional wine and grower groups appears accurate.

Wines & Vines surveyed extension advisors, university staff and growers across North America for reports about vintage 2012. While conditions in California generally stood out as being remarkably favorable aside from a heat spike in the Central Coast, most people reported good to fair conditions in every region this past harvest.

Growers in the Midwest saw reduced yields because of frosts following an early bloom, but the fruit they did harvest was of good quality thanks to a hot and dry summer. In the East, an early bloom helped growers dodge super storm Sandy, and drier than normal conditions in most states helped bring the overall quality of winegrapes up while reducing disease pressure.

Ensuring adequate labor for harvest continues to be a major challenge for almost every growing region. In the Sierra Nevada foothills of California, some growers had to wait a week for crews. Because of the scarcity of labor, machine harvesting continues to become more popular. Another area of friction is tank space; wineries in some regions were hard pressed to find room for grapes—especially red varieties.

Wines & Vines would like to thank those who participated in this report. If your area was not included, and you’d like to contribute to next year, please email edit@winesandvines.com.

CALIFORNIA

AMADOR, EL DORADO, CALAVERAS AND TUOLUMNE COUNTIES;
Other regional designations: Sierra Nevada foothills
What may distinguish the Sierra foothills this year from the wild optimism of yet another (yawn) “fantastic” regional California vintage is a certain maturity—in both the vineyards and the managers who tend them—combined with market influences, neighborly cooperation and the luck of the weather. Especially for those who held (or broke their backs to finagle) the two factors that ultimately made the difference: water and labor.

Pests/diseases: 2012 may be the year that growers here sprayed more times for powdery mildew than in any years previous, resulting in an audibly squeaky clean harvest. Some growers also hedged their bets and applied Botrytis sprays (practically unheard of here in the land of sunshine), along with aggressive canopy thinning, only to have a heat wave come in the final weeks of September to deny the chance of rot in even the tightest Zinfandel clusters.

Supply/demand: Nearly every grower I spoke to told of higher than expected yields due, presumably, to the previous year’s poor crop load, yet most retained the quality the winemaker was seeking and more than happy to take. Indeed, wineries could not get enough of that abundant foothill fruit this year.

Technology/techniques: Sporadic Zinfandel ripening was a problem due to larger clusters, more secondary buds and a reluctance to properly thin the crop after two years of poor yields.

Logistics: With a hot and heavy crop to bring in, many growers harvested their crops at night (common in the North Coast, but here a first for many) due to Napa contract demands and the need to avoid the heat. Using high-powered headlamps, the jobs got done without mishap, although some crews balked at a midnight start time or a 12-hour nighttime shift. Growers reported waiting for available labor, sometimes up to a week. The result of the labor shortage and crunched harvest time could be higher alcohol wines than some would prefer from those blocks.

Varieties: The Zinfandel crop quality was deemed “quite average” by some, as compared to “superior quality” foothill Rhone and white varieties.

Lynn Wunderlich
Farm advisor, University of California Cooperative Extension

MENDOCINO AND LAKE COUNTIES
What a difference a year makes: 2011 was a year of trials and tribulations, whereas 2012 seems to be one of those special vintages where most varieties performed well, and good wine will be possible from nearly everywhere.

Weather: December, January and early February were relatively dry. Rain fell in March and April, bringing precipitation to more normal levels, but rainfall was below average for most places. Temperatures were a little on the cool side, which delayed bud break and flowering in many areas. However, it was not a frosty spring, and this was much appreciated by growers concerned about having adequate water supplies to tend their crop in 2012.

Areas near the coast were foggy many mornings during the summer. Meanwhile, in the interior north coastal valleys, weather was very optimal, with temperatures in the upper 80°s and low 90°s, with few really hot spells that would burn fruit. Regardless, fruit still ripened a little later and slower than normal.

Pests/diseases: Little to none.

Technology/techniques: Wineries had the luxury of picking Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc over more time than usual, as the reds were ripening a bit slower than normal. There was plenty of room in the winery in the beginning of the season. Interestingly, many lots of fruit came in with lower sugar and slightly higher pH compared to other seasons, requiring little adju stment by winemakers.

Varieties: Yields turned out to be a bit bigger than expected. Pinot Noir started later than normal due to a bigger than expected crop and cooler temperatures in the coastal areas. The Zinfandel crop was a bit bigger than normal. Petite Sirah and Merlot were mostly picked before the rains arrived in the third week of October. This should be a good vintage for Bordeaux varieties.

Glenn McGourty
Farm advisor, University of California Cooperative Extension

MERCED AND MARIPOSA COUNTIES
Merced County started the year with some scattered frost damage, but it was neither severe nor widespread. Bunch counts were down for a few cultivars. On April 12 we had a severe hailstorm that damaged fruit and nut crops in a narrow strip that ran south of Atwater to north of Merced. A few vineyards had yields significantly reduced as a result.

Pests/diseases: Even though only a small corner of Merced County was affected, we were relieved to have the European grapevine moth quarantine lifted. We hope we have seen the last of it. Temperatures were ideal for powdery mildew, but growers kept up their control programs, and I heard of no situations where it caused damage. The dry spring resulted in no phomopsis damage to new shoots. Overall pest and disease pressure was low in 2012.

Supply/demand: No one in Merced County had trouble selling grapes. Some growers in Mariposa County reported a very early harvest with low pest and disease pressure. Due to the great distances to wineries out of the area, a couple of growers had trouble selling their crops. Most others had no trouble. Yields were down for a few growers.

Maxwell Norton
Farm advisor, University of California Cooperative Extension

NAPA COUNTY
Napa County growers were blessed with a beautiful growing season in 2012. They started the season with adequate soil moisture and did not experience any damaging frost events. Favorable weather during bloom and fruit set yielded an above-normal crop. The area did not experience any unusual pest or disease pressure during the season. Growers and winemakers were pleased with fruit quality.

Weather: There were very few spring frost events, favorable weather during bloom and even temperatures during the growing season through harvest.

Pests/diseases: Napa continues to be under quarantine regulations for European grapevine moth, although no economic damage was experienced; vine mealybug and leafroll disease were challenging in some areas.

Supply/demand: Above-normal yields with healthy demand for grapes.

Logistics: Tank space was challenging due to above-normal yields.

Monica Cooper
Farm advisor, University of California Cooperative Extension

MONTEREY, SAN BENITO AND SANTA CRUZ COUNTIES
Most vineyards and varieties had average to slightly above average yields—a welcome relief after the low yields of 2011. Fruit quality was good with little negative impact from rot or mold. A short heat spell in early October gave a bump to sugar levels and accelerated the harvest, resulting in a backup in wineries’ tank capacities. Harvest finished during the second week of November.

Weather: Moderate weather in 2012 resulted in a longer than normal growing season. The coastal areas were cooler than normal, and the more interior areas were normal in growing degree-day accumulation.

Pests/diseases: Low insect and disease pressure was common for 2012. The low amount of pre-harvest rain did not result in increased disease incidence.

Supply/demand: Demand and prices continue to show improvement, which will boost the economic stability of the region’s vineyards.

Logistics: The later harvest and higher yields of other regions caused some delays.

Varieties: Increased demand for grapes has resulted in an increase in both new acreage and redevelopment of existing vineyard acreage on the Central Coast.

Larry Bettiga
Farm advisor, University of California Cooperative Extension

SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY
Other regional designations: Lodi, River Junction, Tracy Hills
After two years of light crops, 2012 yields were 30% or more above average. Zinfandel was up the most; Syrah the least. Bunch rot was minimal, and berry size was smaller due to very dry soil conditions. Colors and flavors were excellent. Harvest began about average and then slowed due to very cold nights, often 6°-8°F below average. Most varieties caught up, and harvest was finished by Nov. 1.

Weather: Rainfall was 60% of average. Bud break was exactly long-term average: March 17 for Chardonnay, with a cool dry spring. The season was mild with only four days above 100° and minimums 6°-8° below average.

Pests/Diseases: Some elevated powdery mildew pressure was identified in scattered locations. Mites came very late and light. Vine mealybug is under control; no European grapevine moths were trapped, but light brown apple moth is spreading.

Supply/demand: Prices are up for white cultivars as well as reds grapes Zinfandel, Cabernet and Merlot. There is increased interest in Muscat types and for Mediterranean selections. New contracts offered.

Technology/techniques: Some harvesters used LED lighting technology. One local winery used flash detente. Growers are showing interest in high-wire cordon for machine-pruned vines and solar energy.

Logistics: Regulatory costs are way up. Labor supply was OK this year, while fuel and most input costs were up.

Varieties: Lodi is receiving recognition for quality and value fruit. Wines are competitive with more visitors coming to the area. Growers and wineries show a need for higher yield and/or lower costs at same quality.

Paul Verdegaal
Farm advisor, University of California Cooperative Extension

SAN LUIS OBISPO AND SANTA BARBARA COUNTIES
Growers report about average yields with good quality; some exceptions include sunburned/raisined fruit as a consequence of very hot summer/fall weather episodes. Relatively little spring frost damage and minimal fall rot damage as little heavy rain fell prior to the bulk of harvest being completed.

Weather: Winter was very dry initially, with later spring rains. Summer and early fall were characterized by some extremely hot weather. Sunburned/raisined fruit was a significant problem in some vineyards.

Pests/diseases: Mildew pressure was lower than in the past two wet years; there were few problems with botrytis as fall was relatively dry.

Supply/demand: The region has significant new vineyard plantings going in, particularly in the Paso Robles area.

Logistics: Irrigation water supply was a concern after the dry winter, and labor is still tight.

Mark Battany
Farm advisor, University of California Cooperative Extension

SONOMA COUNTY
It would be difficult to have a better year. Moderate temperatures at bloom resulted in greater fruit set. Consistent mild to warm days without a serious heat spike during early ripening produced heavier clusters. Cluster thinning happened more than once in many blocks. Pinot Noir had larger crop loads everywhere—even in very cool areas. Cabernet Sauvignon yields were back up to average. Higher yields delayed the start of harvest for many growers, but favorable weather allowed everything to reach maturity targets.

Weather: Most of the county had mild daytime temperatures in August and September with cool nights. A brief warm up in the last week of September, peaking Oct. 1, caused a harvest surge that filled winery tanks again. Some areas received more than an inch of rain starting Oct. 21. The last 20% of the crop came in during the three weeks that followed, with daily high temperatures in the 60°s and 70°s.

Pests/diseases: Foliar diseases were a non-issue. No European grapevine moths were trapped, and the quarantine should be removed next year except within three miles of Napa County.

Supply/demand: Yields, demand and prices were up for nearly every variety. Wineries took yield overages if they had tank space, initially at the original contract price. They also offered planting contracts, but nurseries warned of vine shortages.

Logistics: Season-long labor shortages resulted in increased costs and more machine-picked acres.

Rhonda Smith
Farm advisor, University of California Cooperative Extension

SACRAMENTO, SOLANO AND YOLO COUNTIES
Other regional designation: Clarksburg
Most types of grapes were slightly above average in quantity with the exception of Pinot Noir, which came in below average for most growers. The quality of the fruit was excellent. Most varieties will produce the best wine in the past three years.

Weather: The growing season was very close to perfect: many days in the low 90°s with nights in the mid-50°s. A few hot days in the 100°s caused some sunburn to the fruit. Harvest weather was mild without rain.

Pests/Diseases: Powdery mildew was a concern early, however no significant damage was reported. Pest and disease pressure was much lower than the past two seasons.

Technology/techniques: Prices for uncontracted fruit were up 10% to 20%. Demand was strongest in years. All fruit sold early, with most growers having multiple offers.

Technology/techniques: Machine harvesting was used extensively due to difficulties finding labor.

Logistics: Tank space was an issue, however, with such a large harvest. It was managed.

Varieties: Petite Sirah benefited from the warm season. Pinot Noir struggled with sunburn and dehydration. Most whites had above-average tonnage with good quality

Tim Waits
President, Clarksburg Wine Growers and Vintners Association

NORTHWEST

BRITISH COLUMBIA
Other regional designations: Okanagan
Quality overall is good to excellent with good pH/TA balance and excellent flavors. Sugars slightly lower than normal.

Weather: Bud break and bloom came at normal time. Thunderstorms dropped up to 10 inches of rain through June and July, encouraging growth and delaying maturity by two weeks or so. A long, warm and sunny fall pulled the region through.

Pests/diseases: There were far less pest problems this year. Vigilant spray applications for fungi, particularly through June, ensured that crops were generally quite clean.

Supply/demand: Prices held firm. More grapes were sold on the spot market. Yields per acre were about average.

Technology/techniques: Growers did more canopy management in general. Vigilant shoot, lateral and bunch thinning with more leaf removal was evident. Operations were done in a more timely fashion.

Logistics: There were no water shortages. Wineries are waiting for red fermentors. Few labor problems.

Varieties: If crop loads are adjusted, and irrigation and canopy management is done in a vigilant manner based on the season, B.C. growers seem to pull through well.

Richard Cleave
Owner, Phantom Creek Vineyard

IDAHO
Other regional designation: Snake River Valley
Idaho had near-perfect growing conditions. Due to a longer harvest season, the 2012 wines will have more complete phenological ripening, translating into more developed aromas and flavors. Acid levels will be slightly lower than the past two years, making the wines more approachable. The quality was excellent on most blocks and great on the others. Quantity was down about 20% across all varieties.

Weather: The growing season and harvest weather was nearly perfect. A very dry, warm summer and fall resulted in small berry size and s uperior quality.

Pests/diseases: There was no unusual pest or disease pressure with a hot, dry summer and fall with good air circulation. One of our most successful harvests.

Supply/demand: Yields were 20% lower than 2011, and demand for winegrapes is up. More wineries are opening, and current wineries are expanding production. Prices remained stable.

Technology/techniques: The Idaho wine industry continues to make improvements to increase efficiency as well as use innovative winemaking practices to improve wine quality.

Logistics: No big challenges during harvest. One of the smoothest harvests ever.

Varieties: Idaho continues to have success with Rhone varieties and is also seeing great Tempranillos. All indications are that 2012 will have superior quality wines.

Moya Shatz Dolsby
Executive director, Idaho Wine Commission

OREGON—WILLAMETTE VALLEY AND OTHER AREAS
Fruit set was moderate to low during the 2012 season. The lower fruit set was due in part to rainy weather that coincided with the earlier bloom locations throughout the state. As a result, yields were moderate to low in 2012. The fruit quality was considered excellent given the dry growing season that extended into mid-October.

Weather: The spring was typical for western Oregon, but rainfall was high, resulting in one of the wettest springs on record. Weather was warm and dry from July to October with nearly no rainfall.

Supply/demand: Due to lower yields, there was good demand for Pinot Noir. Grape prices likely remained steady or increased as a result of the demand. Labor availability has become an increasing concern.

Dr. Patty Skinkis
Viticulture extension specialist, Oregon State University

SOUTHERN OREGON
The average yield in Southern Oregon was approximately 10%-15% lower in 2012. The yield varied depending on variety, from 2.2 tons per acre for red varieties to 4.5 tons per acre for some white varieties. The wine industry has indicated that it is one of the best vintages from the past decade. Brix levels for most varieties were above the past two vintages.

Weather: 2012 had the perfect combination of ample heat units, long days of sunshine and a good harvest period. The average bud break was 10 days earlier in the Rogue Valley compared to 2011. The 2012 growing season was a dry one, while temperature was above the 30-year average. Some rain events during bloom reduced fruit set by about 10%-20%. The 2012 growing season ended up at 2,600-2,805 growing degree-days.

Pests/diseases: No major issues of pest/disease pressure were recorded.

Supply/demand: The price per ton varied based on variety, but generally did not differ significantly from previous years.

Logistics: Water was not an issue in Southern Oregon, even though the season was quite dry.

Varieties: In addition to Pinot Noir, Southern Oregon seems to be successful with its Rhone varieties and one Spanish grape, Tempranillo.

Dr. Gabriel Balint
Southern Oregon Research & Extension Center

WASHINGTON
Final total tonnage estimate at more than 200,000 tons and certain to be all-time record for Washington due to both new acreage coming into production and recovery of blocks damaged by cold in 2011. Overall quality is excellent. The state seemed to be enveloped in smoke in early September, but no adverse effects have been reported.

Weather: This vintage saw the second coldest June, one of the warmest Augusts, virtually no rain from the end of June to the end of harvest and some areas hit by severe hail. The fall killing freeze didn’t come until mid-November.

Pests/diseases: Washington continues to be relatively free of pests.

Supply/demand: Even with a record crop, overall demand has remained strong. Demand varied by variety, price and region, but the crop found a home in 2012

Technology/techniques: One large winery has implemented the use of interactive web-based software to aid in harvest logistics. Overall this seemed to work well.

Logistics: Many wineries were short fermentor space. A mild fall eased logistics.

Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon continues to see strong demand and increased sales at certain price points. Riesling has tipped to a slight over supply.

Vicky Scharlau
Director, Washington Association of Grape Growers

CENTRAL

COLORADO
After back-to-back small vintages in 2010 and 2011, the 2012 harvest is expected to set a new record for Colorado. And thanks to very favorable growing conditions, grapes were harvested at optimum maturity, boding well for the 2012 wines.

Weather: The 2011-12 dormant season was rather mild, resulting in minimal cold injury to vine tissues. Timing of bud break was normal, followed by the second warmest (and one of the driest) growing seasons on record.

Pests/diseases: Due to the dry conditions, disease pressure was minimal, with several growers reporting no pesticide applications at all.

Supply/demand: Grape prices appear to be up slightly. Supply of Riesling and Gewürztraminer was slightly higher than demand.

Logistics: The shortened harvest season put pressure on labor availability.

Horst Caspari
Professor and state viticulturist, Colorado State University

IOWA
Overall quality was very high due to a lack of rainfall during the final two-thirds of the 2012 winegrowing season. Overall quantity was down approximately 25% due to a hard frost April 10.

Weather: Very low disease and insect pressure seen due to the drought that began in late May. Above-average heat units prompted harvest to run two to three weeks early, resulting in above-a verage Brix levels.

Pests/diseases: Very low pest and disease pressure due to drought.

Supply/demand: Average prices ranged from $1,000 to $1,200 per ton, delivered to the winery (prices typical for Iowa.)

Technology/techniques: More than 80% of Iowa’s grape crop is harvested by hand. There are now six grape harvesters in the state.

Logistics: Finding harvest labor is always a challenge in Iowa.

Varieties: Excellent 25° Brix levels seen in many hybrid red varieties.

Michael L. White
State viticulture specialist, Iowa State University

INDIANA
Other regional designations: Ohio River Valley
Grape quality was excellent this year due to plenty of heat and a dry summer.

Quantity was down about 40% from normal due to frost damage. Most varieties were productive on secondary buds, but summer drought reduced berry weight. Growers and winemakers are very pleased with the quality of fruit this year. A long, hot growing season and mild fall allowed growers to harvest at the peak of quality.

Weather: A very early warm up in March was followed by frost in mid-April. All parts of the Ohio River Valley (and the rest of the state) suffered significant damage to developing shoots. Summer drought was widespread across the Midwest.

Pests/diseases: The near complete lack of fungal diseases was the most unusual event. The very dry and warm conditions were not conducive to disease development.

Supply/demand: Demand for locally grown grapes continues to outpace supply. New plantings are not matching new winery development.

Bruce Bordelon
Professor, Purdue University

MICHIGAN
Other Regional Designations: Old Mission Peninsula and Leelanau Peninsula; Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Benzie and Antrim counties
The 2012 vintage from the Grand Traverse region should end up being a good one, as we had a relatively long and warm growing season that helped express varietal characteristics in the fruit.

Weather: Our vines and crops narrowly escaped several hard freezing events in April. The summer was warm and droughty, but it changed to cool and rainy in September, which slowed ripening significantly.

Pests/diseases: It was a light-pressure year for insects and diseases; a few areas had to deal with problems from powdery mildew. Losses to birds were heavy. Our bird pressure may have been significantly increased because a of a very short crop load of other fruits. This left the vineyards as the only source of fruit for birds. Grower estimates of damage varied quite a bit, which is typical because bird damage is usually spotty and unpredictable.

Supply/demand: Yields were very good for most varieties. Many vineyards required fruit thinning to achieve optimal crop maturity. Prices were average.

Logistics: The droughty summer really tested the irrigation capabilities in our area.

Varieties: Poor late-season conditions kept our Rieslings from reaching ideal maturity levels, but the flavor components and sugar/acid balance came out fine.

Duke Elsner
Small fruit educator, Michigan State University Extension

MICHIGAN
Other Regional Designations: Lake Michigan Shore and Fennville; Berrien, Van Buren and Kalamazoo counties
With a particularly long growing season, a dry summer and good weather for harvest, growers were able to pick grapes at the optimum time for flavor, acidity, pH and sugars. Reds have excellent color. Both reds and whites are of very high quality. Some early season varieties were subject to freeze injury, resulting in lighter supply. Overall, quantity is normal to above normal.

Weather: Southwest Michigan had a mild winter, with 80°F temperatures in March, normal weather in April with a series of frosts and freezes. Summer was dry, with good weather around harvest.

Pests/diseases: Insect and disease pressure were generally light. Phomopsis and powdery mildew were the main disease issues. Some bunch rots developed at the end of the season.

Supply/demand: Prices were consistent with previous years. Some surplus was noted with a few varieties in Southwest Michigan.

Varieties: The reds had good color this year.

Diane Brown
Extension educator, Michigan State University

OHIO
Due to spring frost that damaged mostly juice grape varieties (70% total acreage and production), the 2012 crop is estimated to be reduced by at least half. Most vinifera, however, were little affected and will produce exceptional fruit due to the dry and warm growing season. Heat units were higher than normal, which allowed red varieties longer hang time, higher Brix levels and better flavors.

Weather: Winter was warmer than normal, resulting in early bud break and leading to spring frost injuries. The growing season was warm and mostly dry—unusually good weather for Ohio to produce high-quality fruit.

Pests/diseases: Disease pressure was low due to dry weather. Spotted wing drosophila and grapevine yellow disease were confirmed. Southern diseases are moving northward.

Supply/demand: A frost event in the Great Lakes region caused crop loss, spurring high demand due to a lack of winegrapes. Prices were the same or higher due to demand, and yields were low due to frost.

Varieties: Top performers: Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Cabernet Franc and Vidal. Growers are expanding acreage with the above cultivars, plus Pinot Noir, Traminette and Chambourcin.

Imed Dami
Associate professor and state viticulturist, Ohio State University

TEXAS
Favorable weather in 2012 and new acreage coming into production combined to yield what will likely set a new production record for Texas, with early estimates near 10,000 tons. Fruit qua lity was almost uniformly reported to be very high across the state and across varieties.

Weather: Drought conditions persisted in west Texas, though they were less severe than 2011. No spring frost damage was reported for the first time in a number of years, and almost no hail damage occurred. Weather during ripening was ideal.

Pests/Diseases: No unusual or particularly damaging diseases or pests were reported in 2012.

Supply/demand: Grape prices remain strong, and demand is increasing as wineries expand production and new ones open. Above average yields occurred throughout the state.

Logistics: Some localized shortages of machine harvesters, bins and labor.

Varieties: Mediterranean varieties continue to impress, especially Tempranillo, Sangiovese and red Rhone blends. The state’s best whites are Roussanne, Vermentino and Viognier.

Ed Hellman
Viticulture extension specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

EAST

MARYLAND
The 2012 season was a significant improvement over last year, if not up to the quality of 2007 or 2010.

Weather: The early months were mild and dry, turning wet, windy and warm by spring. Bud break was nearly two weeks early, resulting in early flowering, veraison and harvest. Crop sizes varied from average to generous, and the quality of the fruit was generally good, except that the pHs tended to level off prematurely in the fall. Super storm Sandy, which devastated much of the East Coast, took a detour around Maryland, and most vineyards were spared any damage.

Pests/diseases: Disease pressure was on the low side, except for outbreaks of downy mildew in several areas. Pest problems were tolerable, except for bees (mostly yellow jackets), which were the most abundant in years. Weeds were also in profusion, requiring significant manual labor, including frequent mowing and hand-pulling in addition to spot herbicide spraying.

Varieties: The number of wineries continues to increase, as does the diversity of wines produced. The number of local wine festivals also were increasing—as were the number of wine trails through the historical regions of the state.

Jack Johnston
Editor, Maryland Grapevine Newsletter

NEW YORK—LONG ISLAND
Likely due to a warm spring, harvest was one to two weeks earlier than normal. Yields were average. Flavors were balanced and ripe. Winemakers are uniformly pleased with how the wines are progressing.

Weather: Bud break was early: mid-April. For the most part, the season remained warm with average rainfall. Harvest was finished by the time Hurricane Sandy arrived in late October.

Pest/Diseases: Rain fell Sept. 4-5 and swelled berries as well as jump-started cluster rot. Infections were problematic in riper varieties. Subsequent dry weather limited spread.

Technology/techniques: There has been an increase in the use of fine mesh side netting to protect fruit from birds. Wide mesh netting does not work well in high-pressure areas.

Varieties: Varieties such as Albariño and Grüner Veltliner did well. Growers are continuing to diversify their plantings with varieties new to Long Island.

Alice Wise
Viticulturist, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County

NEW YORK—FINGER LAKES
The growing season in the Finger Lakes was exceptional, except when it came to yields in certain varieties. Early spring frosts significantly reduced yields for Concord, Catawba and other native varieties. Hybrids and vinifera varieties had closer to average yields. Harvest for most varieties was two to three weeks earlier than normal, and winemakers are extremely pleased with fruit quality.

Weather: Growers saw near-record warmth and dry conditions during the growing season. An early spring warm up got the season going ahead of time, and warm temperatures continued throughout the growing season, contributing to an early harvest.

Pests/diseases: Disease pressure was very low this year, thanks to dry weather early in the season. Low botrytis pressure continued until the very end of harvest—even after rains.

Supply/demand: Average prices for most varieties increased in 2012, after several years of flat or falling prices. Riesling increased by 8.4% and was in high demand.

Varieties: Acidity in Concord grapes was much lower than normal this year, more so than for other varieties. There is potential for very high quality wine from red vinifera varieties.

Hans Walter-Peterson
Viticulture extension specialist, Cornell Cooperative Extension

NORTH CAROLINA
Quantity of grapes from Vitis vinifera, French-American and American hybrid cultivars was down due to the spring frost, while there was an oversupply of Muscadine cultivars. Quality of 2012 grapes was average.

Weather: The industry was concerned by a very mild winter in relation to Pierce’s disease. Two spring frosts and scattered hail reduced crop levels in western Piedmont and the mountains. Rainfall was normal to above normal.

Pests/diseases: Somewhat higher downy mildew pressure resulted from the return of average rainfall amounts.

Supply/demand: Prices remained static, and some Muscadine grapes went unsold.

Logistics: Drought issues of recent years were relieved by seasonal rains in 2012.

Varieties: Raffaldini took the “best of show” prize at the North Carolina State Fair wine competition with its Montepulciano, a category usually dominated by Cabernet Franc.

Dr. Sara Spayd
Professor and viticulture specialist, North Carolina State University

ONTARIO
Other regional designations: Niagara, Lake Erie North Shore, Pelee Island and Prince Edward co unties
Yields were good across the province with 65,700 tons harvested at a value exceeding $88 million. Average Brix levels for grapes produced have exceeded the VQA standards by 18% each of the past three seasons. Young vines showed some drought stress this year, as summer precipitation levels were only 50% of a 30-year average; however, mature vineyards were well balanced and produced extremely well.

Weather: It was an extremely early season with much drier than normal conditions until just prior to harvest. Ontario experienced excellent conditions for grapes with only a few issues such as remnants from Hurricane Sandy in late October.

Pests/diseases: Nothing unusual this year. In Ontario, surveys are under way for spotted wing drosophila and other pests appearing from the U.S. eastern seaboard.

Supply/demand: Grape prices remain good: A two-year price agreement was reached in 2012 for plateau-price grapes. Challenges loom for 2014 and a wine content agreement.

Technology/techniques: The extensive use of wind machines in early spring allowed grapegrowers to avoid damaging freeze and frosts that affected tree fruit industries.

Dr. Kevin Ker
Research and professional affiliate/consultant, CCOVI Brock University

PENNSYLVANIA
Other Regional Designations: Lehigh Valley, Susquehanna, Lower Delaware Valley, Erie
2012 began with a very mild winter that saw little snow or freezing temperatures, which led to the earliest bud break on record. For southeastern Pennsylvania, two severe frost events affected many vineyards. The summer was very warm with normal precipitation, and harvest began early—punctuated by hurricane Isaac. Yields were low, but quality was quite good.

Pests/diseases: Late-season downy mildew was the main problem for growers, with some fruit rots presenting. Spotted wing drosophila may be a new insect problem in vineyards.

Supply/demand: Grape prices appear to be stable with perhaps a slight increase.

Logistics: Labor is always a problem.

Mark L. Chien
Viticulture educator, Penn State Cooperative Extension

VIRGINIA
Virginia vineyards were able to produce high-quality fruit in 2012. It was not an excessively challenging year for growing grapes, by Virginia standards. We had a long growing season with bud break occurring three to four weeks earlier than normal across the state. Minimal spring frost damage allowed most Virginia vineyards to pull in a full crop. Hot weather was prominent through the summer months, but in September and October the weather was considerably cooler.

Weather: Hot weather prevailed during the growing season, but in early September it cooled down to more pleasant ripening temperatures. Two large storms caused some trellis and fence damage—the derecho (a sudden and violent wind storm) in June and Hurricane Sandy in late October. Neither storm impacted fruit quality.

Pests/diseases: Spotted wing drosophila is a fruit fly with the ability to deposit eggs in sound fruit. A handful of vineyards reported devastating damage from these fruit flies. Warm, wet weather events in late August caught some growers off-guard with downy mildew, but overall diseases were generally manageable in 2012.

Supply/demand: All indications point to high demand and rising grape prices.

Technology/techniques: Sorting tables are now common at wineries across the state, and improved quality in challenging vintages is attributed to these sorting tables.

Logistics: Labor availability is a chronic hurdle for completing harvest and other vineyard tasks.

Varieties: Early season whites and late-season reds generally seemed to ripen optimally in 2012. Growers reported some flattening of ripening rates of mid-season reds; some, as previously noted, felt harvest was forced by spotted wing fruit flies. Growers in Virginia use Cabernet Sauvignon as an indicator for the length of growing season, and 2012 was a year that this variety ripened adequately to allow high wine quality potential.

Tremain Hatch
Viticulture associate, Virginia Tech Viticulture Resources

 
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