Michigan Wines: State of Affairs
The harsh and cold winter of 2013 – 2014 was rough on many Michigan crops, not to exclude wine grapes. After 40 years of adapting to the ever-changing and unpredictable weather patterns of Northern Michigan, we have developed strategies to deal with such variables. Last week, the Michigan Grape & Wine Council predicted an overall loss of 50% from last year’s (very large) harvest. Linda Jones, executive director at Michigan Grape & Wine Council, speaks with Chateau Grand Traverse President Eddie O’Keefe on Michigan Public Radio about the effects of the long, cold winter, and what to expect for the coming vintage.
The Polar Vortex
The infamous “polar vortex” had varying levels of damage on vineyards around Michigan. Some regions of the state fared better than others, as well as from one vineyard site to the next. Temperatures dropped below the -5°F mark several times in grape growing regions, which poses a threat to the vines. The Traverse City area in particular, Jones remarked, was in good condition until later into the winter months, when Lake Michigan was entirely frozen. Those days of ice cover may have posed the greatest threats to vineyards in Northern Michigan.
Although the overall state of affairs may appear grim, CGT President O’Keefe sees the silver lining on the weather report. Through careful planning based on harvest predictions, we can focus on wide range of products and creativity in design to maximize our output for the coming vintage year. “It’s 40th year in wine industry.. and not our first rodeo,” O’Keefe explains. Over the years, many Michigan wine growers and producers have discovered the importance in maintaining a diverse offering of products. For Chateau Grand Traverse that means including fruit wines and other stand alone wines that help diversify what we can offer, and help to “spread the hurt.” Outside of weather, factors that can influence vine health include air flow, snow cover based on vineyard site selection, and pruning.
A Positive Outlook
Consumers shouldn’t expect to see any major changes in the marketplace. Michigan wines will still be readily available, if by smaller quantities for the 2014 vintage year, says Jones. Reduced crop, the vine produces better quality fruit. Significant reduction. Confident in high quality wines, persevere, large crop carry over. Few degree days warmer. Some grapes wont be harvested toward end of November.
An remarkable fact that provides confidence in another prosperous year for the industry: with a reduced crop, the vines often produce a better quality fruit, says O’Keefe. This gives CGT confidence persevering with what we can harvest and producing high quality wines with what we have for the 2014 vintage.
Winter 2014 – 2015 Predictions
The Farmer’s Almanac knows best? We’ll see, as they’re predicting another tough winter ahead. CGT President maintains a positive outlook: “Most growers have very carefully chosen sites for snowfall and proper air drainage, and ultimately the vines will provide.” At Chateau Grand Traverse, our oldest vines and our newly planted vines are fairing the best. “I guess middle age is tough on everyone,” laughs MPR radio host. Ultimately, Michigan wines have persevered through several rough winters in the past 40 years, and will continue to do so.
Listen to the full interview below.
Originally posted on Michigan Radio.