A Finger Lakes vineyard is recovering from a mid-May frost

A Finger Lakes vineyard is recovering from a mid-May frost

LODI, NY – The Finger Lakes region is known for its lake beauty and nationally known vineyard products. But this year’s weather has been an added challenge for vineyards across the state.

John Wagner has been working on his family’s farm since he was a child.

“You have to be very flexible to be a grape grower and overcome all these weather conditions. And, you know, it’s one thing after another,” Wagner said.

What you need to know

  • Vineyards in the Finger Lakes region began budding earlier than usual this year after a heatwave in April
  • An overnight frost on May 18 left many New York vineyards struggling to recover their crops
  • John Wagner is the fifth generation to have grown up and worked on his family’s farm
  • Wagner Vineyards Estate Winery sells grapes throughout the northeastern region of the country
  • The vineyard says they have lost about 50% of their vines, but are hopeful they will recover

The Wagner Vineyards Estate winery has been around for five generations. It is one of the few vineyards in the Finger Lakes region, which means they use their grapes to produce wine and sell it throughout the region for other wineries to use.

“Fifty percent of my time is spent in the vineyard,” Wagner explained, “and it takes a lot to manage that and get all these varieties to fully mature and harvest them.”

This season, many of Wagner’s efforts have been lost in a single night of frost.

“We’ve had a cold night here and normally we’ve weathered a little outcrop of Seneca Lake and escaped the frost. We’ve weathered it many times, and on May 18 we didn’t,” Wagner said, describing this instance as the worst frost damage he’s ever seen in the area in his life.

This frost was a little different because the grape vines were more developed than they usually are by mid-May. This year there were several days in a row in April when the weather reached 80 degrees. The Wagner vines grew larger and faster, but the additional growth did not prevent any frost damage.

“This shoot was about four inches tall that night, and the cells in there were so cold they froze, and those shoots were dead. But we also had some shoots that made it through,” Wagner said. “Things were very mixed up for us that night.” “.

The vineyard lost about half its crop within hours. However, Wager considers himself lucky, because others around the state have suffered more damage depending on where they are on the ground.

The Wagner winery is located on top of a hill at a higher elevation. Some of its vines decrease in height as they approach water. He says the slope along the vineyard helped keep the frost moving downward, rather than staying on his crop for too long.

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“It was more about the topography of the land. So, if you look from the crop to the winery, it’s steeper. These areas are affected less. And here, we’re in the oldest Riesling building,” Wagner explained. . He is actually 45 years old. And the site is flattening out, so even though we’re closer to the lake, in the event of a frost, the cold air is (dense) than the warm air and that cold air comes down and collects next to the ground and those buds that were at risk because they came out early in April are frozen because The hot weather we had here.

This isn’t the first time Wagner has been exposed to the sometimes extreme weather conditions in the Finger Lakes region.

“The size of the type of crop has a multiplier effect. (In) 2021, we had a good-sized crop, so stocks were good. Then in 2022, we had some drought conditions, and smaller crops balanced out. Everyone was hoping for a more normal crop this year, just so we can replenish the amount of juice and the amount of ice and all the wineries here. “Unfortunately, it’s going to be back-to-back little years.”

However, Wagner’s team is still hoping for a successful season. Wagner also explained that each shot has multiple opportunities for growth. Therefore, even for shoots that did not survive the frost, there is still potential for growth in the coming weeks of warm weather. These secondary growths may not provide grapes, but their growth will ensure a hopeful season for next year, Wagner said.

All of this will make the harvest more difficult in a couple of months, because the grapes will be ready to be picked at an inconsistent rate.

“We have our work cut out for us, but we’re hoping we’ll have a good year and we’ll have fruit that we can bring in and continue to make wine from,” Wagner said. “It’s not catastrophic, but it has a huge impact for us.”

(tags for translation) VOD

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