May 2014 Issue of Wines & Vines

Brutal Winter in the East

by Linda Jones McKee

ITHACA, N.Y.—The winter of 2013-14 brought bitterly cold temperatures to the upper Midwest, the mid-Atlantic region and New England. On March 26, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a natural disaster declaration for 19 counties in New York. Other states are working to obtain similar declarations so that growers can obtain financial assistance to replant or rehabilitate freeze-damaged vineyards.

NEW YORK—In the Finger Lakes, the unusually cold temperatures ranged from -7° to -18° F. Cornell University researchers predict between 50% and 100% bud damage to vinifera grapes including Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and even the relatively hardy Riesling. The farther north along the Finger Lakes, the worse the damage will probably be, said Cornell viticulturist Tim Martinson. He added that potential spring frosts could make a bad situation much worse.

OHIO—The northeastern quadrant of Ohio is the state’s major growing region, and Nick Ferrante, owner of Ferrante Wine Farm in Geneva, Ohio, expects 100% crop loss in his vinifera grapes. Ohio State University researchers estimate the state could suffer a 57% loss of hybrid grapes, 30% loss of native varieties such as Niagara and Concord and close to 100% of vinifera varieties.

VIRGINIA—Low temperatures in Virginia ranged from 0° to -5° F. Tony Wolf, professor of viticulture at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Va., estimated there would be 10%-15% primary bud damage on vinifera vines. He noted that for the past 15 years, winter temperatures have moderated. Consequently, growers no longer use vine-protection measures such as graft union protection, retention of trunk renewal shoots, multiple trunking and delayed dormant pruning.

IOWA—Temperatures in Iowa dipped below zero in early December and remained frigid into early March. The lowest temperature reached was -22.4°F on Feb. 10 at the Iowa State University Horticulture Research Station in Ames, Iowa. The vineyards at the station sustained damage on cold-hardy varieties that ranged from 9% primary bud loss on Frontenac to 23% on La Crescent. Loss was much greater on hybrids such as Arandell (79%) and Corot Noir (81%).

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