A Year of Extremes for Ohio

Some varietals wiped out by Easter freeze; others thrive through warm, dry summer

by Mark Fisher
A Year of Extremes for Ohio
Harpersfield Vineyard
Dayton, Ohio -- Mother Nature delivered a rollercoaster of ups and downs to Ohio winemakers in 2007, but the ride ended safely and happily for most.

The Easter Massacre freeze affected many vineyards in the Buckeye State, (and other Central states), in some cases virtually wiping out yields of certain varietals, though most wineries in the northeast corner escaped the worst of the cold snap. An unusually warm, mostly dry growing season followed, though rain did fall in some areas late in the harvest season. All in all, Ohio winemakers are smiling.

Markko Vineyards founder Arnie Esterer said the warm, dry growing season led to early ripening and an early harvest. "Sugars and flavor developed well in spite of low rainfall," Esterer said. Markko's Pinot Noir was harvested at 22º Brix and Chardonnay came in at 23º Brix, relatively high sugar levels for an Upper Midwest region that in some years struggles to ripen its vinifera grapes.

Wes Gerlosky, winemaker for Harpersfield Vineyards, also in Ohio's northeast corner, said, "I'm willing to predict 2007 to be at least the equal of 2005 and perhaps even approach the level of the fabulous 2001 vintage."

The extremes of the growing season were felt keenly at Kinkead Ridge, (see "Vive la Vinifera," Wines & Vines, September 2007) near Ripley in Southern Ohio. The winery saw some varietals decimated, while others enjoyed a banner year. "Last year we had 7,000 pounds of Viognier. This year we had 160 or so. There will hardly be any white wine this year," said co-owner Nancy Bentley.

A Year of Extremes for Ohio
Ron and Nancy Bentley
But her partner and winemaker Ron Barrett has high hopes for his Cabernets. "The Cabernet Sauvignon may be an extraordinary vintage," Barrett said. "Small berries, with a high skin to pulp ratio, are very good for red vinifera. The Brix levels were 25º-plus on the reds, resulting in wines with higher alcohol content than normal. The Cabernet Sauvignon survived the freeze, so quantities are normal; and almost normal on Cabernet Franc."

For more information and vintner comments on the Ohio growing season and 2007, visit daytondailynews.com/wineblog.
Currently no comments posted for this article.