Wines & Vines Home
Welcome Guest

Midwest Vineyards Damaged by Frost

Ohio, Michigan vineyards among hardest hit after a warm March

by Andrew Adams
Alternative text
Arrington Vineyards in Arrington, Tenn., hired a helicopter in mid-April to prevent frost from damaging vines. Warm temperatures in March triggered early bud break in much of the United States, leaving young vines in danger of frost damage this spring. Photo Credit: Tyler Smith
Geneva, Ohio—The fears of many growers in the central United States came true as the record high March temperatures that kicked off early bud break were followed by icy weather.

Gene Sigel, who owns South River Vineyard winery in Ohio’s Grand River Valley, said there is some frost damage every spring. However, Sigel said that because of elevation or air drainage, some vineyards have not suffered frost damage in his 20 years of growing experience—nor in the past century, according to local lore.

Yet even some of those vineyards were damaged. “It really has been a once-in-a-century frost,” Sigel said.

Warm weather across the Midwest triggered bud break about three weeks early. As the balmy weather broke historic high temperature records it also caused buds to push, and growers watched young vines growing in what was still the height of frost season. Sigel told Wines & Vines that his area suffered from the early growth and the severity of the cold snap, which saw temperatures as low as 22°F on April 29.

The previous week, Sigel said highs were hovering around the mid-80°s. The freeze damaged 80%-90% of the area’s vineyards, and Sigel said of that the damage ranged from 20% to total loss.

A second dormancy
Sigel manages 170 acres of vines for three different wineries and also owns his own vineyard. He said some sites see frost damage every year. Those vineyards saw frosts earlier and went into “kind of a second dormancy.”

For the vineyards that normally don’t get hit by frost, the recent and severe cold turned 8- to 10-inch-long vine shoots into “shriveled spinach.”

Donniella Winchell, executive director of the Ohio Wine Producers Association, told the Associated Press that anywhere from 30% to 75% of Ohio’s grape crop was damaged during the recent freeze.

In Missouri, frosts occurred throughout the state, but damage varied. R. Andrew Allen, the extension viticulturist with the University of Missouri’s Institute for Continental Climate Viticulture and Enology, said vineyards in the western part of the state experienced little damage, but growers in the southeast saw significant losses. “We were almost a month ahead of schedule, and so we had been in to the growing season about four weeks or nearly a month when the frost came through, so everybody’s growth was out there and vulnerable,” he said.

Allen estimated that total state production would be reduced by 5%-10%. He said the season has been split between growers who are still tending their primary buds and are about a month ahead of growers who lost that growth during the cold weather.

Frost protection with KDL
Iowa may have lost about 40% of its primary winegrape production, according to Mike White, a viticulturist with Iowa State University. He said growers who waited the longest to prune experienced the least amount of damage.

A few growers had success by spraying at around one gallon per acre with the foliar fertilizer KDL. White said there’s “pretty good evidence” that the product can protect by 3°-4°F.

In Michigan, the spring frost was the cruelest to juice grape vineyards in the southwest part of the state, where possibly more than 90% of the crop was lost, said Thomas Zabadal, a professor with the Michigan State University Horticulture Department. “Winegrapes were largely untouched by freezes until the April 27 event,” Zabadal said. “Early varieties such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Lemberger, Foch, etc., were hurt in some vineyards as much as 50%.  Nevertheless, the overall picture is brighter. I don’t have a firm statistic, but we may well have 80% or so of a crop at this point.”

He added that there’s a slight chance of another frost in May.
Indiana saw a few frosts throughout April. Bruce Bordelon, a professor and extension specialist with Purdue University, said in an email that the state is just now seeing new growth from a freeze in mid-April. “It appears that even in areas that were hard hit, the later budding varieties will have a decent crop even though there was quite a bit of damage,” he said. “We had pruned light and left many buds. It appears we have enough primary shoots for a good crop.…Earlier budding varieties that were more developed look much worse. It appears the damage was more than just to primary shoots. I see little development of secondary buds on those varieties.”

He said there was less than 50% shoot damage in the main growing area in the southern part of the state, and with careful management growers should gather close to a full crop. “We are lucky in some areas and pretty devastated in others. The wineries are already asking about other regions and if there will be a source of fruit this year.”

Currently no comments posted for this article.

Wines & Vines Home
866.453.9701 | 415.453.9700 | Fax: 415.453.2517
65 Mitchell Blvd., Ste. A San Rafael, CA 94903
Wine Industry Metrics
Off-Premise Sales » Month   12 Months  
August 2015 $608 million
$8,178 million
August 2014 $568 million $7,729 million
Direct-to-Consumer Shipments » Month   12 Months  
August 2015 $80 million
$1,908 million
August 2014 $78 million $1,686 million
Winery Job Index » Month   12 Months  
August 2015 261
August 2014 218 224
MORE » Released on 09.15.2015
Direct To Consumer
Wine Shipping Report
Download full report »


Practical Winery & Vineyard Library
Search the PWV archive »

  • October 3-11
    Lake Chelan Crush Festival
  • October 9-12
    Santa Barbara Celebration of Harvest
  • October 13-16
  • November 3-6
  • MORE »

Article: Growers Suffer Low Yields in Paso Robles »
This year's Paso Robles/San Miguel "mature" Cabernet Sauvignon yields were down to 30% of normal while...
Reader: Guest
Article: Crowd Funds 10,000 Cultivars »
Thanks for interviewing the academic breeders. They would love to be able to raise $167K...
Reader: New York Viticulture
Article: Nielsen Unpacks Package Design »
Okay, I'll state the obvious (to anyone with CPG experience) - the Wine Biz is...
Reader: Joel Miller
Article: Nielsen Unpacks Package Design »
Very interesting reading. Certainly agree with the more indirect approach of evaluating the extent to...
Reader: Roger Brooks
Article: Experimental Solution to Pierce's Disease »
Congratulations to the team! It is amazing what can be done with biological controls. Keep...
Reader: Bruce Coulthard

2015 Directory/Buyer's Guide
The Wines & Vines Directory and Buyer's Guide
Wines & Vines Magazine
Digital Edition Now Available!
Wines & Vines Digital Edition Now Available
The Wines & Vines Online Marketing System
The Industry Standard winery marketing application
Latest Job Listings
 Retail Wine Sales & Op...
 Santa Clara, CA
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Regional Sales Manager
 New York City, NY
Sales and Marketing
 Wine Club Manager
 Santa Rosa, CA
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Financial Analyst
 Kenwood, CA
 Cellar Supervisor
 Geyserville, CA
Cellar, Lab and Production
 Account Manager - Seat...
 Seattle, WA
Sales and Marketing
 Direct To Consumer Lux...
 Santa Rosa, CA
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Office & Winery Assist...
 St. Helena, CA
General Administration and
 2016 Vintage Nightshif...
 Barossa, Sa, NA
 Assistant Winemaker
 Mudgee, Nsw, NA
More Job Listings >>
Follow Us On:

Home  |  About Us  |  Editors  |  Subscribe  |  Print Edition  |  Digital Edition

Advertise  |  Site Map  |  Contact Us  |  Privacy Policy
Copyright © 2001-2015 by Wine Communications Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
No material may be reproduced without written permission of the Publisher.
Wines&Vines does not assume any responsibility for any unsolicited manuscripts or materials.