The nation's vineyards in 1992.
We thank the vineyard authorities who help spread the word on the harvest from coast-to-coast. Without such assistance it would be difficult if not impossible to provide the details of the year.
We, will publish late reports in March; the available reports are as follows:
BY ED WEBER
The harvest of 1992 began very early in Napa Valley. Fruit for sparkling wine was picked in the first week of August; the harvest for still wine began the following week. Yields were generally quite high, which was surprising given the record crops produced in 1991.
Moderate weather conditions throughout the growing season contributed to the early ripening. August heated up and it looked like the harvest would be compressed into a few chaotic weeks. Fortunately, temperatures cooled down and the harvest was drawn out to a manageable length. There were no rains during harvest.
The moderate temperatures were also ideal for the development of powdery mildew which was a serious problem in many vineyards, despite normal control measures.
Phylloxera is now having a major impact in Napa valley. Nearly 10% of the county's 35,000 acres of vines have been removed in the last three years due to phylloxera, and considerably more are infested. The county-wide decline in production from phylloxera-infested blocks has been masked in 1991 and 1992 by the large harvests from healthy blocks in both years.
There has been little new vineyard development due to the need to replant existing vineyards. Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are the principal varieties being replanted. Some wineries are also planting Syrah, Viognier, and Sangiovese, among others, due to the considerable interest Rhone-and Italian-style wines.
The number of wineries in the county (over 200) continues to be a politically-charged issue. This past year, two new winery proposals gained particular notoriety. Both wineries met the requirements of local ordinances, and both were opposed by vocal neighborhood groups. One of the winery proposals was rejected by the Board of Supervisors, while the second was approved.
BY RHONDA J. SMITH
Viticulture Farm Advisor
Sonoma County grape growers experienced a nearly ideal growing season in terms of weather. Warm clear days predominated with the exception of showers in March and late June. Most insect and mite population levels were down, probably because of the June rains; however, powdery mildew pressure was up. Initially it appeared that harvest for all varieties would be concentrated into a short period of time because coastal fog was nearly absent in July and early August. Eventually temperatures cooled slightly and remained steady resulting in an evenly paced, event-free, harvest period.
Powdery mildew remained a concern for those sites which traditionally experience high disease incidence. It also affected other growers who did not anticipate the increased spore release with June rains. In general, vineyards which had received a wettable sulfur treatment just after budbreak as part of the mildew control program experienced little or no disease.
The greatest concern for all growers utilizing AXR#1 rootstock is not if but when phylloxera will be found in their vineyards. As of this writing the number of acres removed in 1992 or which are known to be infested is not available. Replanting, interplanting and converting a vineyard to a different rootstock by grafting are all practices being utilized by growers who either have infested acreage or anticipate it in the near future. Regardless of the method(s) chosen, the decision of which rootstock to plant is still often determined by availability.
Latent viruses present in scion wood taken from AXR#1 vineyards pose vet another risk growers now must assume when planting, regardless of the vineyard conversion method chosen. Wood certified virus-tested is not available for fall budding. There are no alternatives to collecting budwood from existing vineyards, and risking an unknown percent loss due to latent viruses, when wineries and growers prefer specific selections over certified clones for quality reasons.
BY GLENN T. MCGOURTY
Plant Science Advisor
The 1992 winegrape harvest for Mendocino County was a "textbook" harvest year with average to slightly above average yields, and good to excellent quality. The winter was warmer than usual, followed by a warm spring and early summer. By August, temperatures had cooled slightly. Late spring rains in June caused some early bunch rot on Chardonnay in the Ukiah Valley, but growers were able to groom their vines, and for the most part, delivered high quality fruit by harvest. Grape harvest was considerably less stressful and frantic than 1991. Chardonnay and Pinot noir for sparkling and still wines started a little ahead of schedule, but the later red grapes came in spread over a fairly normal schedule, allowing a little breathing room between the major varietals. Rains didn't fall until late in harvest, causing very little damage and minimal inconvenience.
In Anderson valley, winemakers are calling this an above average year. Fruit ripened early, and crops were above average in yield with exceptional quality. Chardohnnay acreage was especially productive, with reports of 10 to 12 tons per acre of very, high quality fruit from some of the newer high density vineyards trained on lyre trellises. For the first time in several years, late harvest Rieslings will be scarce, as conditions simply didn't occur for "noble rot." The crop was in well ahead of the rain. The sparkling wine houses were able to bring in their crops with relative ease, and are very, happy with the resulting wines.
Red wines should be above average quality from this vintage. Primary and malolactic fermentations were prompt and complete. Acids and pH levels were very acceptable, requiring little additional chemical adjustments.
Prices held firm for 1992, with little uncommitted tonnage late in the season. Demand for Mendocino county fruit remains strong for most varietals. Demand for red wines in the bulk market is strong, with little inventory available.
A major change of winery ownership occurred with the purchase of Fetzer Winery by Brown-Forman Inc. Brown-Forman purchased the Fetzer and Bel Arbors brand names, the Hopland winery, the Valley Oaks Food and Wine Center, and 300 acres of vineyard from the Fetzer Family. With Paul Dolan promoted from head winemaker to president, Fetzer so far is continuing with its very innovative and successful programs. The hope is to significantly increase the capacity of the winery in the very near future. Operations will be consolidated in Hopland, and the corporate offices and winery in Redwood Valley will be moved within two years to that location. Besides continuing its successful winemaking program Fetzer is making a very strong commitment to protecting the environment by an intensive recycling program in the winery, and growing winegrapes sustainably in its vineyards.
In 1992, Monte Volpe Winery (Ukiah) and Gabrielli winery (Redwood Valley) opened for business. No wineries closed.
Acreage remains stable in Mendocino County, with some replanting, but few new developments. Few vineyards changed hands, and few are for sale. Prices are stable.
A new experimental planting of Rhone and Italian winegrape cultivars is being planned for the U.C., Hopland Field station. The planting is being done cooperatively between U.C., Cooperative Extension in Mendocino County, U.C., Davis Department of Viticulture, and interested persons in the industry. There is strong interest in those varietals, and an informational meeting held at McDowell Valley Vineyards was well attended. Growers are looking for alternatives to traditional Bordeaux winegrape cultivars, especially for vineyards in the warmer coastal valleys. Twenty cultivars will be planted on two acres in 1994. Ultimately, wine will be produced in barrel lots by cooperating local wineries.
New plantings of Rhone and Italian varietals continue on a small but steady scale. Syrah, Viognier and Marsanne have been planted in five vineyards this year. Sangiovese, Dolcetto and Nebbiolo have also been planted by several people. McDowell Valley Vineyards program in the Rhone varietals is being well-received in the market place. Monte Volpe's releases of Barbera and Moscato were promptly sold out. At least three other wineries have started Rhone and Italian varietal programs, crushing their first vintages in '92.
No new grape pests have invaded our county this year. So far, no "Type B" phylloxera has been found. "Type A" phylloxera continues to be a problem on own-rooted vines, and about 60 acres have been removed this year because of this pest.
Sustainable agriculture, including organic farming, has become well-accepted in Mendocino County. There are now 1,700 acres of organic winegrapes registered in the county with the Ag Commissioner, and another 1,000 acres that are farmed with minimal pesticides. Covercrops are widely planted, and compost sales have "mushroomed" in the last year. Several have released or are planning to release wines made from organically-grown grapes. Five wineries in the county are currently making and labeling organic wines, and another four will probably have organic labels by this year.
The long-range outlook for viticulture and winemaking in Mendocino county is quite good. Financially, the winery business has been a bright spot in the depressed timber-dependent economy of the county. Mendocino Bounty, a food and wine show, held in August, attracted more than 1,000 guests, and brought favorable reviews from numerous food and wine writers. The event is already in the planning stages for 1993. The winegrape industry and the people behind it in our county are young, energetic, unpretentious, friendly and on the cutting edge. Anderson Valley wineries are making great wines in the French tradition, while vineyards in the interior region are showing that you can grow high-quality winegrapes profitably in ways that are friendly to the environment. New plantings of Rhone and Italian varietals are looking very promising and wines fermented from these plantings are being well accepted into the marketplace. We move into 1993 positively and optimistically.
BY PHILIP R. WENTE
The Livermore Valley 1992 growing season was similar to most other coastal regions, warm and compact, with harvest beginning in mid-to-late August and finishing in early October, quite a contrast to 1991. Tonnages of most varieties were close to historic average and weather during the harvest was ideal.
During the spring of 1993, 50 acres are scheduled to be planted primarily to Petite Sirah, Merlot and Sangiovese. The Ruby Hill project, now fully permitted, will break ground in early 1993 on the Jack Nicklaus golf course and ground preparation for its nearly 800 acres of vineyard.
Phylloxera is still limited to "A" type and no new pests appeared in 1992, giving the Valley an outstanding position from which to prosper in the future.
MONTEREY, SAN BENITO AND
SANTA CRUZ COUNTIES
BY LARRY BETTIGA
Warm weather during spring promoted more rapid shoot growth than normal and caused much earlier development of full canopy. Although early flower cluster counts were lower than average, warm weather during bloom promoted fruit set which increased cluster weights. Crop size for most varieties was average to slightly below average. Lower production was more common in the cooler growing areas. Harvest began approximately two weeks earlier than normal. The differences in maturity date between early and late varieties were less apparent in 1992 as well as the difference between growing areas. Some of the first vineyards to be picked were in the cooler regions. The harvest was relatively problem free and dry weather prevented botrytis bunch rot problems.
Demand for Chardonnay and Merlot remains strong. The demand and price for Cabernet Sauvignon and other red varieties increased as compared to 1991.
Growers of phylloxera-infested vineyards continue efforts to manage the problem. The use of cultural practices that reduce vine stress has delayed vine decline. Replant programs are replacing individual vineyard blocks as they become economically unviable to farm. In addition to replanting programs, a number of new developments are planned for 1993 plantings.
The major pest problem was the high powdery mildew disease pressure in 1992. Improved control programs that have been developed in recent years prevented losses for most growers in the area. An outbreak of Pierce's disease was confirmed at several vineyard locations in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Prior to this discovery, the disease had not been a problem in the area.
SAN LUIS OBISPO and
SANTA BARBARA COUNTIES
BY JOHN H. FOOTT
Farm Advisor (ret.)
and MARY BIANCHI
Optimum weather conditions contributed to an early harvest for most vineyards, except for some Zinfandels in some areas affected by leafroll and/or mites. Quality was, in general, very good and prices were firm on most varieties. Crop levels were lower than average in some areas of southern San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties.
There is interest in planting Rhone and Italian selections. Grafting to different varieties has fallen off from past years, and is primarily to better varieties within vineyards.
Phylloxera is present in San Luis Obispo County but seems to be confined to limited areas at this point. Since most acreage is own-rooted there is interest in rootstocks, replant methods, and grafting techniques. Control of powdery mildew and mite outbreaks, as well as skeletonizer and leafhoppers, were the major disease and pest problems. Some vineyards in cooler areas continue to have problems with obscure mealybug and fruit leucanium scale infestations.
BY BUCK COBB
There may be a "smokey" complexity in 1992 vintage Amador and Sierra Foothill wines. The harvest began very early in a mid-August hot spell accompanied by an outbreak of wildfires. Picking grapes in smoke is not a turn-on.
The harvest was as early as any old-timer could remember thanks to a perfect spring. Despite less than normal rainfall again, late winter showers soaked the ground when needed. Amazingly, even after six years of drought, the dry-farmed Zinfandel vineyards in Amador County yielded an above-average well ripened crop. There were no unusual pest or growing problems.
The wines made from early-ripening vineyards picked around the hot spell were a bit low in acid and skin extract, but are making an early show of bright fruit. These should produce early easy-to-drink fruity Beaujolais-style wines. The hot spell was followed by two weeks of abnormally cool weather bringing harvest to a halt. The "second" season began in mid-September and these slower-ripening vineyards show very mature flavors and good acid and color. These should produce full-bodied wines with aging potential.
A number of plantings of Rhone and Italian varieties yielded the first major crop in 1992. This should be a topic of great interest as the wines from these vines reach market in the next few years. Several growers are experimenting with organic growing and the results are sure to make an impact when conclusions are apparent.
Stability describes the vineyard and wine businesses in the foothills. Growers are enjoying good demand for grapes at fair prices. A handful of winery startups have occurred the last few years, and a few have changed ownership. No change is expected in this picture anytime soon.
BY KATHY KELLEY
Unexpectedly strong demand generated by favorable national publicity following the broadcast of the |60 Minutes' "French Paradox" segment in fall, 1991, resulted in very early grape buying beginning in March and April. Prices offered growers in 1992 were anywhere from 15 to 30% higher on whites and 25 to an amazing 80% higher on red varieties compared to 1991. Carignane prices started at about $160/ton and finished anywhere from $200 to $250/ton. Barbera and Ruby Cabernet prices averaged $250 and increased as the season progressed with spot prices as high as $275 to $300/ton. The majority of the Zinfandel tonnage sold in the $400 to $450/ton range. Early season Colombard and Chenin blanc prices were about $150/ton but finished in the $175 to $200/ton range with spot prices somewhat higher. The crop matured two to three weeks early with some growers harvesting in mid- to late July. Crop size was about 10% greater than in 1991 and may be the largest crop in eight years. Some growers had a difficult time scheduling delivery because of somewhat limited crush capacity. Anticipating early harvest, but not a tight delivery schedule, a number of growers cut off irrigation too early and thus adversely affected crop quality and tonnage.
Overall quality was decent with high sugar levels although mildew got out of control in some vineyards. Phylloxera is currently not a problem and will not likely be a major problem in the future for the majority of vineyards growing on coarse textured soils in our county. Planting contracts are being offered by at least one vintner which may encourage new plantings. Growers anticipating planting on second generation nematode-infested sites will face challenges and will be looking for rootstocks and other alternatives as we continue to lose fumigants.
BY MAXWELL NORTON
1992's was certainly one of earliest seasons on record. But unlike the 1991 season where we started early and ended on time, the '92 season, delighted every one by wrapping up early also. The fast and furious pace caused some scheduling problems but crush went fairly smoothly all things considered. All in all the quality of the grapes delivered was good with no major problems.
Cool mid-summer temperatures were ideal at times for powdery mildew and some growers had to apply extra sulfur treatments. Very few insect problems were recorded, which is evidence that the UCIPM program for grapes is really working. Some growers reported having to spot-treat leafhoppers.
There are still no known phylloxera sites in Merced county. Hopefully through diligent sanitation procedures we can keep it that way. Growers should insist that any equipment brought in from another ranch be cleaned first. This includes mechanical harvesters that have mud and dirt stuck to the wheels and frame.
Merced County has 15,715 acres of grapes. 13,647 acres or 87% are wine-type varieties. Only 4% of the wine-types are nonbearing. There was no significant top-working that I know of.
SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY
BY PAUL S. VERDEGAAL
The 1992 season continued the trend of recent years by not following any normal trend, other than yields being fairly average overall. The earliest harvest on record is what distinguished the '92 season from others. For most growers, it was a good year in the Lodi-Woodbridge district and in San Joaquin County as a whole.
A very dry winter in the sixth year of the current drought caused a great deal of concern early in the year. However, heavy rains in late March and early April significantly reduced potential problems in yields, vine health, nutrition and pest problems.
An early and warm spring got vines off to a quick start in growth. Due to the early spring rain, weeds were temporarily more of a problem than they have been since the drought began. The weather remained warmer than average, especially night temperatures. The combination of early shoot growth, spring rain and mild to warm temperatures may have contributed to the scattered problems with powdery mildew. Although not widespread powdery mildew problems were severe in come cases and definitely more of a problem than during 1991's very cool weather.
Crop development continued greatly ahead of normal. Temperatures were above average, but still relatively mild (only 2 days with 100 [degrees] F or greater maximums).
Pest problems were not severe, but there was scattered trouble with grape leaf hopper and spider mites. Variegated leaf hopper continues to spread throughout the Lodi area at a slow rate. There was some indication of more beneficial insects this year. Some of this may actually have been the result of climatic condition and/or an increased awareness of predators and parasites by growers and consultants. One measure of this increased awareness is the recent establishment of a district wide Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program by the Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission (LWWC). The goal of this commission-sponsored program is to evaluate methods of pest control, cover crops and related cultural practices on a district-wide basis. Then to disseminate this information and other resource data from university or industry IPM efforts. All of this with the aim to maintain a long term and economically viable reduction in traditional pesticide use.
The crop harvest began four weeks earlier than in 1991 and even a week earlier than 1990; the earliest any one previously could remember. Harvest began for the white Zinfandel and Tokay programs by the 3rd of August. Chardonnay and Sauvignon blanc were at optimum sugar shortly after this and some Merlot was being picked by the 24th of August. Cabernet Sauvignon was ready in some vineyards before the first of September. It looked like harvest would be finished by the 15th of September, but cool weather during the first week of September slowed many of the remaining vineyards still to be harvested, in their race to maturity. As it was, almost all grapes were picked by the end of the third week of September. By this time vineyards began to show the effects of six years of drought which the heavy spring rains seemed to delay. Many vineyards showed potassium deficiency, some leaf loss, slowed sugar accumulation and general water stress symptoms.
Overall yields were slightly below average, but this differed among varieties and between vineyard sites.
Zinfandel varied widely, while Merlot was generally above-average. Cabernet Sauvignon was variable but somewhat down. Varieties such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon blanc were average. Tokays did not yield as much as expected after losing most of their crop in last year's sudden heat wave at the beginning of July.
Grape demand was up and prices were generally higher than in 1991. Growers, especially those without long-term contracts, fared better than in 1991. Zinfandel prices averaged $450 per ton for the white program and $500 or more for red wine. Cabernet Sauvignon was harvested for $550-600 per ton; some vineyards fetching $700. Chardonnay averaged around $600 to $650, with some reports of $700 to $800 a ton. Even Tokay prices came up to $160 to $170 per ton.
Interest continues to grow cautiously with respect to other varieties for blending or varietal use. These include Rhone varieties such as: Shiraz (Syrah), Mourvedre (Mataro), Cinsaut (Black Mavoisie), Viognier, Roussane, Marsanne, Nebbiolo, Barbera, Primitivo (Zinfandel) clones, Marzemina, Teroldego Cainolo, Dolcetto and Fresia. Of less immediate interest until now are Spanish varietals such as Graciano (Monastrell), Tempranillo (Valdepena) Viura and a few others. Even eastern European varieties may be seen in the future.
With increased demand continuing from the benefits of the "French Paradox" news, a small surge of long-term contracts have been offered locally. This has helped in the decision to remove additional acres of Tokay, Colombard, Carignane or old vineyards of other varieties. Some of the recent removals have gone into cherries, apples or walnuts, but the vast majority of removals are replanted to vineyards of more desirable wine varieties.
The growing season was warm, but quality was very good, although it appeared that berry size was generally larger and pH levels up slightly compared to 1991.
In summary, the 1992 season was generally good and exceptionally early. This gave growers some time to consider the improved situation locally and focus on new efforts in research (especially cover crops), new vineyard development and in marketing. The LWWC has been aggressively establishing their research, education and marketing efforts and setting a foundation for some early grower benefits along with long term pay-backs for better grapes, better wine, better recognition and better prices for area growers.
BY DONNA HIRSCHFELT
Two factors seemed to have had the greatest impact on the 1991 season in Fresno County, an early harvest and the concentrate market. The 1991 season was one of the earliest on record. Budbreak was early in most locations and cultivars, and by bloom Thompson Seedless was 10 to 14 days ahead of normal. Table grape harvest started in early July, and from then on growers struggled with the decision when to pick for optimal prices. Raisin and wine grape harvest began two weeks early, with some growers picking by August 10. Conditions remained ideal for raisin drying through September. The early season resulted in high quality in wine and raisin grapes, but variable quality in table grapes. Some late season cultivars such as Ruby Seedless and Christmas Rose experienced berry shriveling late in the season.
The impact of the concentrate market was significant. Prices remain stable for raisin growers. Demand and price for concentrate was so strong that some table grape producers sent fruit to the winery rather than pack and store table grapes. Prices and long-term contracts are on the rise for red wine cultivars.
Cluster counts were 20% higher than, normal. March and April were accompanied by rain showers and more wind than usual, making early season powdery mildew control difficult. Powdery mildew was a serious problem in some raisin, wine and concentrate vineyards.
Many new vineyards are being established. Thompson Seedless is being replanted as old vineyards succumb to nematodes and phylloxera. There is interest in planting Zante Currant, Fiesta and some experimental early-season raisin cultivars. Table grape growers are planting Thompson Seedless, Fantasy, Crimson Seedless, Redglobe, Ruby Seedless and Black Marroo. Grenache, Barbera, and Ruby Cabernet are also being planted.
More than 15% of the acreage in Fresno County is infested with phylloxera. Most of this acreage is on the east side of the valley, but pockets occur in many areas where fine, sand loam soils are present. Many of these vineyards have been infested for over 30 years, and we do not see the rapid vine decline common in the north coast. The visual symptoms of phylloxera are similar to nematode damage, with a gradual decline ill vigor, yield and berry size. Commonly, infested vineyards may be replanted with citrus or tree fruit. Nematodes continue to pose a greater risk, because of the prevalence of sandy soils. Interest in rootstock use is increasing.
"Organic viticulture" has found a small stable niche in the raisin and table grape markets, but does not seem to be increasing rapidly. However, the trend toward reduced inputs and "sustainability" continues. Many vineyards are establishing cover crops, and utilizing green manures or compost for nitrogen. There is an increase in the use of biological control organisms and beneficial insects.
BY WILLIAM L. PEACOCK
The drought continues to be a major concern for Tulare County growers. The 1992 runoff from local streams was one third of normal and growers relied heavily on groundwater. The depth to groundwater has dropped an average of 70 feet since 1987; in some areas the groundwater has lowered as much as 200 feet. Deeper wells have been drilled and irrigation systems upgraded at considerable expense. The lower water table has increased power costs about $20 an acre foot, and pumping yields have dropped significantly. There are 750,000 acres of irrigated farmland in Tulare County (grapes, deciduous, citrus, field crops, vegetable crops, seed crops, etc.), and the drought has cost these farmers over a quarter billion dollars - and still counting.
The big story, other than the drought and a very early season, was a strong demand for wine grapes in Districts 13 and 14 in the Southern San Joaquin Valley: Tulare county is divided into both districts. Red grapes were selling for around $250, white grapes for around $200, Muscat mostly $250, and Thompson Seedless was a bargain at $175. Strong grape concentrate and wine markets coupled with the removal of thousands of acres of wine grapes in the southern districts the past eight years have fueled the higher prices.
Table grape quality was very good, and the season was 10 to 14 days early. There was a glut of fresh shipping fruits on the market during June and July which may have contributed to lower prices for early table grapes, but prices improved as the season progressed. Culls were sold to wineries for as much as $9 a sugar point; some entire table grape crops were diverted to the winery.
Raisin yields were high and quality was good. Perfect summer weather allowed the large crop to mature, and the harvest was rain free. Many vineyards set all-time production records. In spite of more tonnage diverted to the winery, the raisin industry ended up with a surplus. The raisin Administrative Committee announced in November a minimum of 35,000 dried tons available for a 1993 Raisin Diversion Program.
BY DR. GEORGE LEAVITT
After 1991, the 1992 season was indeed a relief for most growers. With good growing conditions, cooler weather, and most pest problems being minimal, the crop was one of the earliest in the recent decade. Raisin quality was exceptionally high but overproduction remains a problem. 50,000 tons of raisins will be diverted in 1993. Table grape quality was also exceptional, with good size and sugar, but prices were not indicative of the quality. Earlier than normal harvest free of weather problems was experienced by all three segments of the industry.
Powdery mildew hit most growers with a vengeance not seen in several years. Excellent conditions for mildew development occurred throughout the season. This, coupled with the earlier season, caught growers behind in preventive sprays and contributed to the problem. Spring rains after budbreak, absent for several years, caused Phomopsis viticola (the old dead-arm), to reappear on susceptible varieties such as Thompson and Grenache. Another pathogen to appear in unusual amounts during the past two growing seasons is crown gall. Large quantities of aerial galls have appeared in some vineyards. This could have been a result of the severe cold weather experienced in Dec., 1991.
Overall wine grape prices improved significantly. The concentrate market improved considerably because of frost in other parts of the world and strengthened the crop marketability for our growers; however, I believe this will be short-term and should not be depended upon as a reliable market for future plantings. South America and the tropical regions of the world have extensive amounts of cheap land, inexpensive water and a ready source of cheap labor to produce juice (apple or grape) for concentrate. Few long-term contracts are available and those are only for small acreages of specific varieties. Grafting of Thompson and Colombard to other varieties is also occurring with Zinfandel being the most popular variety. Plantings have virtually stopped except for replanting old vineyards. Total acreage has stabilized near 85,000 acres.
DONALD A. LUVISI
Grapes were the number one agricultural crop in Kern County in 1991 worth $252 million. Table grapes accounted for 77% or $195 million. The Kern County table grape industry is a sophisticated growing and marketing operation. The first grapes are harvested during the last week in June and the last grapes marketed out of cold storage are in late January thus fresh grapes are available 7 months out of the 12 month year.
Table grape prices were down and variable during the season, partially due to a large crop and early maturity. Cool weather in July advanced the maturity of many varieties and the normal marketing sequence was severely altered. In addition, the fruit with advanced maturity did not store on the vine and had to be harvested 4-6 weeks ahead of normal. The result was a shortened marketing season for the months of August and September.
Above-normal prices for culls and field strippings made the winery/concentrate market a viable alternative to marketing the second label fruit, thus helping to hold up fresh fruit prices.
Wine grape acreage that had been abandoned during 1990 and 1991 has been removed. The current upswing in wine grape prices paid to south valley growers will probably slow down or stop removals for the next several years. Although prices are up, the cost of water and water availability could make profitable wine grape growing a moot question. In this area no water means no grape - any other crop for that matter.
It is interesting to note that in 1991 there were 2,631 acres of organic grapes being grown in Kern County. To my knowledge all of this acreage was for table use.
Since most of the acreage being replanted represents grapes following grapes growers are concerned about soil pest problems such as nematodes and phylloxera. Some growers are planting test plots of rootstocks for both phylloxera and nematodes. Phylloxera is present in Kern County but it has been here for the 33 years I have been in the county and growers tend to live with it.
It appears that the Kern County grape industry is mature and changes will occur slowly. The unsettled water situation will put a damper on many expansion plans and could affect continued production from current permanent plantings.
BY WAIN JOHNSON
1992 grape production for Mariposa County was up perhaps 20% compared to 1991. Quality appears to be better and prices paid were good.
A new winery opened and the other two plan on expanding in 1993.
Although we do not have a large acreage in grapes, we are expanding each year. In 1992 we planted another 15 acres bringing our total to around 120 acres, 60% in production. Five acres were grafted over to Cabernet Sauvignon from Riesling. Although the Riesling produced a terrific wine it was extremely hard to manage at that site, as it was too warm.
There appears to be a push from the real estate companies to try to sell parcels as grape land. I, as farm advisor, am frequently asked to help prospective land buyers to evaluate parcels for potential grape production. Due to the tremendous acceptance of Mariposa wines there is a great interest in developing more acreage of winegrapes. I would expect that we will have 4-500 acres of grapes within the next 10 years in the county.
We did experience a Willamette mite problem this year and will be watching that situation closely next year.
Some of the vineyards are moving towards "organic" means of production, but realize that in some instances they must use "conventional" production practices.
We have not experienced phylloxera problems as yet. Our biggest problem, at this point in our newly-developing industry, seems to be getting a handle on nutrient and irrigation management as there is not sufficient research in the Southern Sierra Foothill area.
BY WADE WOLFE
The Hogue Cellars
The 1992 vintage can be summarized as warm, early, large and very good quality. Following moderate winter conditions with no vine injury, buds broke two to three weeks early in late March. Between budbreak and bloom in late May, several near misses with frost caused minor damage in low areas. Mid summer weather was typical, resulting in a slightly early veraison. Unusually warm post-veraison weather accelerated ripening, forcing an early harvest starting in the third week of August. Continued warm weather compacted ripening between varieties and locations. Growers and wineries fortunately were able to adapt to the compressed schedule through mechanical harvesting and 24-hour processing. As a result, fruit was harvested at peak maturity and preliminary assessment of wine quality is very good.
Yields w re typical for Concords, with a total state production estimated at 170,000 tons and excellent quality. Cash price at 16 [degrees] Brix dropped for a second straight year to $180/ton, but most growers received an additional $10-15/ton in sugar bonuses. The wine grape crop is estimated at 48,000 tons, exceeding the previous record crop of 46,000 in 1988. Varieties with low crops in 1991 (eg Chenin blanc, Sauvignon blanc, Merlot, Semillon) rebounded with larger than usual yields in 1992, while varieties such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling had slightly above average production. Prices weakened slightly from 1991, with the biggest drop seen for Chardonnay, down $200 to about $875/ton. Prices held for Riesling, Chenin blanc and Gewurztraminer at around $400/ton, indicating a good balance between supply and demand after acreage reductions in the last four years. Merlot continues to be the highest-priced variety, coming in at about $1,100/ton.
A recent acreage survey compiled by the Washington Wine Commission placed total 1991 wine grape acreage at just under 11,000. Varieties with greatest acreage include Chardonnay (2,655), Riesling (2,118), Merlot (1,555) and Cabernet Sauvignon (1,419). New plantings scheduled for 1993 focus on Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay with lesser acreages of Cabernet franc, Syrah and other southern European reds. There will be minor removals of Riesling and Chenin blanc. It is anticipated that new plantings will slow appreciably after 1993 unless there is a significant increase in winery capacity or exports. Plantings continue to be ownrooted, with no evidence of phylloxera damage in wine grapes. However, Washington State University-sponsored rootstock trials are slated for 1995 to evaluate the most promising stocks under Washington conditions.
Disease and insect problems were average, with powdery mildew pressure relatively high due to early canopy development. Successful mildew control programs included two to three early sulfurs followed by two to three applications of a sterol inhibitor such as Rubigan. Little crown gall has been observed as a result of the late 1990 freeze. Botrytis bunch rot is now controlled by irrigation and canopy management rather than fungicides. Thrips, leafhoppers, mealybug and cutworms constitute the major insect problems and with the exception of cutworms, all are easily managed.
BY TOM BRADY
Terra Rossa Vineyards
MICHAEL W. KILBY
U. of Arizona
Arizona experienced a second year with above-average rainfall. Spring showers provided good water retention in the rootzone, cooler temperatures, and a delayed bud break. There were no frost problems in the late spring, and bloom coincided with sunny skies.
A series of summer storms reduced the need for supplementary dripwater. The weather in the Sonoita Appellation rarely rose above 95 [degrees] F and night time temperatures in the 60s were the norm. The high grasslands of Sonoita are surrounded by mountains with elevations up to 10,000 feet. Vineyards planted on the foothills at the 5,000 foot level are in deep terra rossa soils with good air flow.
Four wine festivals were well attended with excellent participation from both Arizona and California wineries in some cases. The 250 acres planted in the state remained constant as no new vineyards were established. A few acres of vines were planted as replacements for losses caused by Pierce's Disease. It appears that this devastating disease has infected about 15 acres of small contagious vineyards in a secluded area of Southern Arizona. Wind machines are being used for spring frost protection on the colder sites.
Four of the nine vineyards in the region had their first commercial crops. The five wineries reported excellent acid, sugar and pH ratios. Mild weather lingered into the late fall and the vines hardened-off prior to the first freeze. The size and quality of the '92 crush in Sonoita is expected to enhance the reputation of the young Arizona industry.
Wines produced in the Sonoita appellation showed a sharp increase in sales. Wine quality and its diversity help to strengthen Arizona wines in the market place. Sonoita vineyards received a gold medal for its Pinot noir release in a California competition in 1991. Two new wineries were established in the Sonoita area bringing to Arizona a total of six wineries in the state. Applications for the establishment of new wineries continue to increase. It is anticipated that a new winery will be established in 1993. Kosher wine continues to be produced with strong sales and the first Sonoita Chardonnay will be released in 1993. The Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot noir varieties are primary red wines with Merlot a strong candidate for excellent vintage for 1992.
There was a decline in table grape vineyards due to vineyard removal, non-farming and conversion to raisins. About 3,000 acres were grown for fresh market. The table grape market was down considerably prompting consideration for increased raisin production in 1993.
Prices paid for wine grapes were the same as 1991 at approximately $1,000/ton. Fortunately, the dreaded phylloxera has not invaded Arizona to date.
BY BARNEY WATSON AND
Oregon State University
The 1992 season was the warmest and earliest on record. Every month from January through August was warmer than average with maximum temperatures in March, April, May and June more than six degrees above the long-term average There was no damage from low winter temperatures and only spotty occurrence of spring frost. Bloom was the earliest on record starting on May 27th in the Willamette Valley. This was 38 days earlier than 1991 bloom (the latest on record).
Fruit set was good and cluster weights were above average for most varieties. Cluster weights on Pinot noir ranged from 75 to 120 g/cluster. Yields were above average and many Pinot noir and some Chardonnay growers in the Willamette Valley used some method of crop reduction, usually cluster thinning. The precipitation during the early part of the growing season was less than normal and vine growth in unirrigated vineyards was less than average.
Temperatures during August, September and October were slightly warmer and drier than normal. Harvest normally occurs during the cooler weather in late September and October. However, harvest this year was three weeks to a month earlier than normal resulting in temperatures during maturation that were significantly warmer than usual. Harvest of Pinot noir for sparkling wine began in mid-August compared to early October in 1991. Pinot noir harvest for still wine began in the Rogue, Illinois, Umpqua, and Willamette Valleys in late August and continued through mid-September with 22.5 to 25 [degrees] Brix, 6 to 9 g/L TA, and 3.15 to 3.6 pH. Some drought-stressed Pinot noir vineyards were harvested early based on high sugars and low acidity, whereas less-stressed vineyards were able to delay harvest for one to three weeks. Pinot gris was harvested in late August and early September with composition similar to Pinot noir. Chardonnay was harvested from early September through early October with 22 to 24.5 [degrees] Brix, 7.5 to 9 g/L TA, and 3.2 to 3.4 pH. Riesling harvest began in September and continued into October with lower Brix and higher acidity than Chardonnay. Cabernet Sauvignon was harvested from mid-September through mid-October with 22.5 to 24 [degrees] Brix, 6 to 9.5 g/L TA and 3.1 to 3.4 pH.
Total crop of 12,300 was the largest on record, exceeding 1991's record crop of 9,600 tons. The high crop was the result of good fruit set and new vineyards coming into production. Total grape production slightly exceeded winery demand. Contracted grape prices were similar to '91 price but spot market prices during harvest were lower than average for Pinot noir and Chardonnay.
Concerns about phylloxera and rootstocks has slowed plantings of new vineyards. It is recommended that new vineyards be planted on phylloxera-resistant rootstocks; however many plantings are still going in on their own roots. Pinot noir and Pinot gris are the most commonly planted new varieties.
BY ESTEBAN HERRERA, NMSU
Throughout the state, 1992 was an excellent year in terms of grape production. Late freezes were absent enabling vineyards to grow normally, especially in Northern New Mexico, and produce an abundant crop.
Production per acre has remained low, averaging about three tons per acre. Prices paid for a ton of grapes varied from $300 (Muscat, Chenin blanc) to $900 (Chardonnay); other prices include $400 for Merlot and $750 for Pinot noir. Chardonnay has commanded the highest price over the last five years. Some growers are having hand labor problems for harvesting their crop. Mechanical harvesting is possible but not enough harvesters are available. Leaf skeletonizer and white fly were the major pest problems in 1992.
In general, some wine prices have increased slightly with no negative reaction to sales. It seems that wine consumption in the state is increasing. However, a significant income for wineries continues to be direct sales from wineries and their off-premises facilities. All wineries are benefiting from sales and contacts made during the four wine festivals celebrated in the state. Bernalillo (north of Albuquerque) during Labor Day weekend; Mesilla (Las Cruces area) Memorial Day weekend; Santa Fe, last weekend in June, and Sunland Park (Sunland Park racetrack) during the third week in March.
The 12th Grape Growers and Wine Makers Conference mill be held April 29 to May 1 at the Ramada Classic Hotel in Albuquerque. The Southwest Wine competition will take place April 29, the Annual New Mexico wine tasting April 30, and the Educational Program April 30 and May 1. Contact person, Esteban Herrera (505) 646-2921.
BY CARL HAESELER
Penn State U.
This past grape season in Erie County, Pennsylvania was difficult and highly frustrating. The season started well with an excellent potential for being another banner year in production, after the 1991 crop season. However, it did not happen, at least from the quality aspect. Production was variable although average tonnage appeared to be good. Vines began growth close to normal and bloom commenced slightly late, but within an expected range. At that time, cold weather set in and some areas had reduced set. Berries per cluster along the lake shore ranged between 22 and 26 berries, approximately 30% below normal. Clusters per vine were approximately 30% above normal. The cool situation continued through the remainder of the season. Then in August and September eleven inches of rain fell which compounded the situation. Harvest began October 6 and ended about November 12.
Conditions in southern Pennsylvania, except for cool weather, were fairly good, although many varieties were harvested approximately two weeks later than normal. Early varieties were not problematical. Production was slightly above normal and fruit quality was good.
Although the basic wine market has leveled off some, sales of red wines increased substantially from mid-year. Limited expansion in wineries and vineyards was evident in southern Pennsylvania this past year and appears as though cautious expansion may continue.
Basic grape prices are somewhat lower than in 1991, but in reality, the problem of low returns is attributable to poor fruit quality this past season. Hopefully, the '93 season will be less frustrating than 1992s.
BY GARTH A. CAHOON
Ohio Ag. R & D Center,
The Ohio State University
Similar to 1991, the big story was related to weather. Ohio had a rather average winter during 1991-92 with no severe cold periods. Most varieties experienced minimal winter damage and sustained adequate viable buds with normal pruning practices.
Although spring was considered "normal" the months to follow can be characterized by one word-"wet"! Early season rainfall was satisfactory throughout Ohio grape producing areas, averaging 2-4 inches per month during March, April and May. However, precipitation in some northern areas during July was as high as 12 inches. August and September were also well above normal. Some central and southern Ohio counties had more normal rainfall conditions. Excluding July, interstate 70 could be considered as an imaginary line between excessive and sufficient rainfall. Fruit maturity tended to fall in line with precipitation.
From preliminary records the 1992 harvest was greater than 1991. But, fruit quality of the various cultivars was significantly inferior, especially in northern Ohio.
With much rain and reduced sunlight, the harvest season in northern Ohio commenced 10 days to two weeks late. The Concord harvest, for example, normally begins an anytime after the 20th of September. In 1992 it started about the 5th of October and finished about the 8th of November, in addition to all the other adversities a high wind occurred on November 1 and 2 stripping off fruit in unharvested vineyards. Some plantings were not worth picking if not completed by Halloween night.
Concord prices for 60 [degrees] brix grapes were $185 to $192/ton. This was well below the 1991 prices and 1991 was below 1990. Compare this with the fact that much of the fruit averaged below 15 [degrees] brix, growers did not receive even this amount. Some of the earliest Concord fruit harvested did not reach minimum maturity (14.5 [degrees] brix) and were either dumped or sold off at prices as low as $120/ton. Fruit maturity of Catawba may have even been worse than Concord. Prices of most Vine grapes were, in general, not depressed to this extent. Compare this with the 1991 harvest, when weather conditions produced some of the highest brix levels and highest quality fruit on record and harvest dates were as much as 3 to 4 weeks ahead of schedule. Concord grapes were harvested with brix levels as high as 19.5. and picking was essentially completed in September.
On the positive side, Ohio wine sales in 1992 were up 7 to 10% with a strong interest in reds. As predicted in the '91 report, the 1991 vintage is proving to be great one. Our newly-elected governor, Voinovich, is also giving strong support to our industry.there were no new wineries commencing business in Ohio during 1992. The planting of some new winegrape vineyards are anticipated, especially red French hybrids and viniferas.
No new disease or insect problems were encountered during the year. Results of a statewide grower survey, initiated after harvest in 1991 are not yet available.
WESTERN NEW YORK
BY JIM KAMAS
Area Ext. Spec.
The 1992 growing season as difficult and frustrating for many grape growers in western New York. Last year's difficulties can be attributed to a cool, cloudy growing season and unexpected high productivity in the majority of area vineyards. After the record crop in 1991, few growers expected high bud fruitfulness in 1992 and, as a result, many retained high node numbers after dormant pruning. The growing season got off to a late start and some frost-prone areas in the eastern end of the belt suffered low temperature damage on Memorial Day. Cluster counts reported by processor field representatives before bloom were surprisingly high and foretold of a large crop potential. Even though Concord bloom began at a near-normal calendar date, cool and rainy weather protracted bloom for nearly three weeks. This erratic weather pattern resulted in clusters with fruit of differing ages and an irregular shatter that made crop estimation difficult. The best guess by mid-summer was that the crop was functionally at least two weeks late.
By the time Concord veraison finally occurred on September 2 in Fredonia (latest on record), everyone knew harvest would be slow and difficult. Early fall frost caused many vineyards to lose functional canopy when fruit solids were still well below processor standards. Conditions were further complicated by the freeze on October 20 that was generally more severe in the eastern portion of the belt. There seemed to be a fine line on the severity of fruit and rachis damage which was dependent on fruit sugar content at the time of the freeze. In some cases, freeze damage allowed low solids fruit to dehydrate, concentrate solids, and pass processor inspection. The most amazing part of the past season was that much more of the crop was harvested and delivered than anyone would predict. While final production figures are yet to be published, the crop size was well above average, but below the record crop of 1991.
Wine grapes fared considerably better in reaching maturity than Concord last year with the notable exception of Catawba where the problem of low solids was complicated by late-season downy mildew. Most wine makers appear pleased with the 1992 crush and fruit quality should be representative of eastern conditions that favor higher acid mines. Both wine and juice grape growers are expecting that cool, cloudy summer growing conditions will result in lower bud fruitfulness in 1993.
BY DAVID V. PETERSON
Area Extension Specialist
The 1992 grape harvest in the Finger Lakes will be remembered for the opposite reasons that 1991 was so memorable. This season began with a slightly late bud break, and cooler than average temperatures continued throughout the season. Cumulative degree days for the season totaled less than 2,000 about 300 less than the last 10 years' average. Higher than normal rainfall, especially in July, resulted in increased disease pressure, with powdery mildew causing the greatest problems.
Early cluster counts were generally high, presumably a result of the favorable conditions in 1991 and the mild winter that followed. Although set was variable due to the cool, cloudy weather during bloom, yields were generally above average. Large numbers of shot berries were seen in many varieties. The high cluster counts and large be size helped make up for the uneven set.
Harvest by the large wineries began with Aurore during the week of Labor Day. This was somewhat later than average, but probably at lower maturity than the processors would have preferred. With the large number of tons processed by the major wineries, however, there was concern that if they did not start processing at that time that it would not be possible to get all of their required tonnage in if an early frost shortened the season. A series of frosts did occur throughout October, although damage was variable according to the site. Warmer sites often kept most of their leaves until the beginning of November, while cooler sites lost theirs as early as the first week of October. Yields were often very good, generally below 1991, but at or above average.
Quality ranged from very poor to remarkably good. For the juice varieties, Concord in particular, it was quite poor. Low soluble solids forced some processors to lower their minimum soluble solids standards, and to release growers from contracts. Low sugars, high acids and low color was typical of Concords for juice and wine. This problem was compounded by the relatively large crop that many vineyards produced, which delayed maturity further. Quality of French hybrid and vinifera wine varieties was generally better than Native American varieties, although it was uneven. Those grapes purchased by the larger processors were generally harvested at low sugars and high acids, due in part to their scheduling requirements. Smaller processors were generally able to let the grapes hang longer, however, and quality was often very good if they were not on sites that experienced early frosts. Bunch rot problems were surprisingly absent, even though October was quite cloudy. Varieties seemed to ripen somewhat out of sequence. Most Native American varieties seemed to accumulate sugars more slowly than hybrids and viniferas. Acids were generally higher than normal, especially on varieties traditionally high in malic acid, such as Baco noir.
The market was somewhat softer than in 1991 for most varieties, as a result of the large 1991 crop that swelled inventories, and the concerns over the potential poor quality of the 1992 crop. Concord prices generally dipped, while Niagara and other Native American varieties were relatively stable. Demand for Native American varieties other than Concord and Niagara, however, (especially Delaware) continued to sag.
Prices for French hybrid varieties were generally stable from both large and small processors. Demand for red varieties was very high, although prices did not necessarily reflect this. White hybrids were more or less stable in price and demand with a few exceptions. Aurore, and to a lesser extent Seyval, experienced lower demands, while Cayuga White seemed to strengthen in the market. In spite of this, prices from both large and small wineries were relatively unchanged.
Demand for most vinifera varieties was high, with the exception of Chardonnay, which was in excess for the second year in a row. Major plantings of Chardonnay that occurred in the 1980s are now in production and have caused marketing problems. Prices reflected this situation, as they declined again in 1992. Even so, however, most wineries announced prices for Chardonnay at $700-900 per ton, which many growers have found to be quite profitable, especially considering the higher yields that have occurred in the past few years. Many growers have developed lucrative out of state markets, which has helped the situation somewhat. Riesling demand appeared to increase slightly. A number of new plantings of red viniferas (especially the Bordeaux varieties) have occurred over the past few years, and some of these are now coming into production. Demand and prices remained high (generally $1,000-$1,300 per ton) for these varieties. The main market for Pinot noir was for champagne.
Prime sites for new plantings continue to be available for very reasonable prices, often less than $2,000 per acre. New plantings are primarily red Bordeaux varieties, or Concord and Niagara for juice. Several new wineries opened in the Finger Lakes in 1992, including Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars in Lodi, Leidenfrost Winery in Hector, and Silver Thread Vineyard in Trumansburg. Wines at Silver Thread are produced from organically grown grapes.
BY GEORGE RAY McEACHERN
Professor and Ext. Hort.
TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY
The 1992 Texas grape crop exceeded the record-breaking 1991 crop and continued annual increases in production since 1975. This is a major accomplishment because all vines north of Lubbock were killed to the ground by a major early winter freeze on October 30-31, 1991. Vineyards throughout the state had exceptional yields and 18 years of continued production increases stayed unbroken. In 1992, 1.9 million gallons of wine were produced in Texas from 13,000 tons of fruit. The prices paid were very good; however, most grapes were under contract. The wineries which depend on grapes north of Lubbock had to purchase fruit from southwest and central Texas vineyards. Of the 26 wineries in Texas, one closed its doors and five others did not make a significant volume of wine because of the shortage of fruit.
Texas' 1991 and early 1992 wines have proved to be very good by collecting awards from across the country. Chardonnay from four Texas wineries scored extremely well in national and state competitions to finally complete the list of quality wines from Texas. Texas Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon blanc, Chenin blanc, J. Riesling and Muscat Canelli have made excellent wine for a number of years, but 1992 was the first year for excellent Chardonnay from a number of Texas wineries. Texas Port from the LeNoir variety continues to be recognized for top quality. The new Blanc DuBois vineyards in south and east Texas look good and a small volume of it was made in 1992. C. O. Foerster, Jr. of Elsa has a new Vinifera x Mustang seedless tablegrape, Mother Gloyd, which has excellent potential for south and east Texas.
The 1992 Texas Lone Star State Wine Competition was conducted at six regional cities and the finals at the State Fair in Dallas.
The Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association had very good spring and fall meeting: with excellent speakers and participation. Dr. Barry Comeaux received the association's T.V Munson award for his work on Vitis classification. Enrique Ferro of California and Italy received the Louis Qualia award for his Enology Consultation in Texas. Bruce Rector of Glenn Ellen was the featured speaker at the fall meeting.
Dr. Bill Lipe began directing construction of a new research winery at the Texas A&M University Research and Extension Center at Lubbock in 1992. Dr. Roy Mitchell will be conducting the research once the winery is complete. Dr. Steve Morse, of the Texas Wine Marketing Research Institute at Texas Tech University at Lubbock published an excellent 131-page book, "A Profile of the Texas Wine and Grape Industry" in 1992.
BY JACK JOHNSTON
Maryland Grape Growers Assn.
In contrast to 1991, a truly memorable year, 1992 was for the most part a year best forgotten. Last winter was vary mild, with no temperature plunges, but precipitation was one-third the normal amount - the lowest ever recorded. This was followed by a cold, drizzly spring, delaying flowering throughout the state The summer was mild and cool, with below normal rainfall. Temperatures in the fall were also cool, but the rainfall picked up.
As a result, harvest dates averaged about two weeks later than normal. Powdery mildew was the most frequently reported fungus problem, with isolated incidences of black rot, downy mildew and crown gall. Crop size varied, but most growers reported an average size harvest. The most serious predator problem was birds, which devastated significant portions of some vineyards; the main culprit seemed to be robins, which pay little attention to the standard defenses such as balloons and flash tape. Some growers also report damage from deer and raccoons, and Japanese beetles were back in force the second year in a row.
Fruit quality ranged from fair to ... well, less than fair. Sugars were low, acids high. Ripening in most areas seemed to level off prematurely, and thereafter refused to budge (this didn't seem to bother the birds).
In spite of the problems, no marketing difficulties were reported - everything seemed to get sold. The final phase is now in the hands of the winemakers, whose skills will be put heavily to the test this past season.
The number of wineries in Maryland now stands at ten, down one from last year. Varietal choices remain largely Seyval, Cabernet and Chardonnay, with a slight increase in interest (and plantings) of Chambourcin and Vidal.
BY TONY K. WOLF
Viticulturist, VPI and SU
One determinant of the quantity of grapes harvested in 1992 was predetermined by temperatures during the previous winter. The 1991-1992 winter was a record warm winter for Virginia and there was essentially no low temperature injury. The lack of winter injury, coupled with few spring frost problems set the stage for another excellent season. Bloom and fruit set were somewhat protracted by cool, wet weather; nevertheless, most vineyards reported reasonably good fruit set.
The distinctive feature of the 1992 growing season was the record cool temperature. Cooler temperatures slowed grape maturation and harvest dates, for a given variety, were anywhere from 10 to 20 days later than "average." Several vineyards at higher elevations experienced defoliating frosts before late-maturing varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Vidal blanc had been picked. Most vineyards, especially those in the warmer areas of the state, reported good to excellent fruit quality at harvest. As might be predicted, fruit acidities were generally higher, and pH values lower, compared with fruit harvested in more normal years at comparable soluble solids concentrations.
Precipitation from April through October averaged about 10% greater than the historical average for that period. Pest problems were, for the most part, predictable and manageable. One vineyard in the Tidewater area was found to be affected by Pierce's disease (PD). Although symptoms were previously observed, it was reasoned that the two recent warm winters had contributed to the spread of PD within that vineyard. PD has been extremely rare in Virginia.
Although a comprehensive annual survey is currently being conducted (at press time), total crop for 1992 is expected to be close to the record 2,800 tons harvested last year. Grape prices have remained virtually unchanged over the past five years, although demand for certain hybrid varieties has appeared to wane. Several small vineyards were established over the past year and total vineyard area currently stands at about 1,400 acres. Two "new" varietal wines are expected to emerge from Virginia's 1992 vintage: a Viognier and a Norton.
BY CHARLES E. EDSON
Southwest Missouri State U.
In early November 1991, low temperatures between 6 and 10 [degrees] F caused trunk and cane injury in some vineyards. However, most cultivars suffered minimal injury. Midwinter injury was minor. Multiple spring frosts caused considerable bud loss, especially on relatively early budding cultivars. Late cultivars like Vignotes and Cynthiana/Norton generally escaped serious injury.
The season began with adequate rainfall, but drier conditions prevailed during early summer. Later in the season, including the early harvest period, rains were excessive, exacerbating bunch rot problems in some cultivars (i.e., Vignoles). Disease pressure from powdery and downy mildew was heavy on susceptible cultivars during the latter part of the season, through harvest. Control was effective in most vineyards.
1992 will be remembered as a very "cool" season. Harvest was 2-4 weeks behind 1991. Yields ranged from 5-100% of normal, put overall were down about 25-30% across the state. Quality was mixed due to the very cool vintage. Typically, acids were high, and sugars about average, especially in cultivars harvested early. Fruit chemistry in later ripening cultivars was improved following a slight warming trend. Vintners generally considered flavor profiles average to good for early cultivars and average to excellent for later (especially red) cultivars. Prices remained steady, with Vidal, Seyval, and Chambourcin valued at $450-550; Catawba $325-375; Concord $325-350; Vignoles $600-700; and Cynthiana/Norton $600-900.
Overall grape acreage declined in 1992, largely due to a loss in Concord acreage. Modest increases in vane grape acreage continue. Sales of Missouri wines were up, with several wineries garnering gold medals in national competitions. Some wineries have expanded their operations to meet this demand.
BY BRUCE BORDELON
Viticulturist, Purdue University
The 1991-92 season in Indiana was a year of new weather records. An early November '91 freeze with record-breaking low temperaturcs caused injury to buds and canes in some areas. Winter temperatures were mild for this region and little bud injury occurred as a result of mid-winter temperatures. A record-breaking warm spell in late February and early March resulted in bud swell about four weeks ahead of normal. A return to normal weather brought several freezes and late spring frosts from March through May. The cool weather prolonged the period of bud swell which led to damaging levels of grape flea beetle feeding and frost injury. Most growers delayed pruning until frost danger was over, avoiding excessive crop losses.
The summer started very mild and dry with below normal rainfall for April through June, followed by the wettest July on record. Many areas received 10-14 inches of rain in July alone. This weather pattern resulted in little early season disease pressure, but one of the worst downy mildew outbreaks in years. The rains fell again in September, resulting in fruit rot problems in some vineyards. The summer of" 1992 was the coolest on record, but accumulated growing degree days were sufficient to allow harvest to occur on, or just past normal dates. The ripening season was long enough to fully-mature late season cultivars. Marketable yields were generally above average where frost injury, insect damage and disease pressure were not excessive. Fruit quality was very good where rots were not a problem.
First frosts occurred in mid to late October for most of the state, with a record low of 21 [degrees] F on October 19 in West Lafayette. The normal harvest dates and cool September weather allowed vines to harden off before the first fall freeze. Growers can expect a good crop in 1993 if all goes well.
Public perception and acceptance of Indiana wines continues to improve due to efforts of the Indiana Wine Grape Council. A modest increase in grape acreage is expected as new wineries increase the demand for Indiana-grown grapes. Some growers have planted vinifera cultivars on their best sites. Early results appear promising, but only time will tell if improved cultural practices will be sufficient to allow consistent production of vinifera in Indiana.
BY MIKE THOMAS
Michigan State U. Extension
The 1992 growing year was characterized by cold, cloudy weather. Spring frosts reduced crop in the southwest portion of the state by 30%. The weather brought late infestations of downy mildew to many vineyards that had little problem with this disease for many years.
The state produced a crop about the same size as 1991 but it suffered from low sugar and high acids. This was particularly true of the juice grapes, Niagara and Concord. Wine grape varieties fared somewhat better in the soluble solids area but acids will challenge winemakers skills.
Some Northern Michigan wineries are expanding sparkling wine production in an effort to overcome some of the shortfall in high-quality varieties.
About 4% of the state's production was abandoned and over 4,000 tons more than normal were diverted to concentrators.
The recent Michigan Agricultural Statistics Service 1991 Fruit Survey indicates that Michigan grape production acreage grew by approximately 300 acres between 1986 and 1991. All of this growth was in Niagara and wine grape acreages.
BY JOE SPINELLI
Fla. Grape Growers Assn.
Florida grape growers are celebrating 1992 as a turning point for the industry. While the number of cultivated acres remained constant, there was a significant increase in awareness toward Florida grape products and a strong show of industry support from the Florida Department of Agriculture.
Some of the highlights of the year were successful harvest festivals at Eden Vineyards and Lakeridge Winery. Florida wineries won numerous medals at the Florida State Fair and other national competitions. The juice, jam and jelly tasting event, also at the State Fair, was highly-attended and successful.
The harvest itself was excellent with most vineyards reporting flavorful fruit with good color. Grapes sold as produce again exceeded expectations with a strong demand for the sweet muscadine grape in Florida and out-of-state markets. Effects of Hurricane Andrew were minimal as the vast majority of plantings are in the interior of the state.
Most U-pick operations, reporting excellent fruit on their vines, were completely sold out in record time. Those who were not so fortunate saved their crops by selling off large quantities of their crop commercially to other southeastern states.
The 1992 Bunch Grape crop required high levels of maintenance to keep disease to a minimum. The native family of Muscadines fared much better due to its native stock. During the year research teams evaluated several approaches to reducing the elagic acid which affects Florida wine production. Organic viticulture gained ground in both research laboratories and several vineyards.
The long-range forecast for Florida grapes is optimistic. The Florida Grape Growers Association has entered into a contract with the Florida Department of Agriculture to promote grapes and grape products. This will be used to conduct grape conferences and other educational sessions and raise the public awareness of Florida grape products. Furthermore, legislation passed in 1992 allows for the designation of Florida Farm Wineries. Among other things, this will enable these wineries to provide tastings at fairs and expos.
1992 was truly a year of accomplishment and change in the Florida viticulture industry. Florida grape growers have the expectation that the programs currently being cultivated will yield a bumper crop of demand for a high quality Florida product in years to come.
BY J.T. CORBETT
Wine Council of Ontario
Ontario had a late and slow summer with rainfall considerably above normal. The 1992 harvest was delayed to take the fullest advantage of the traditionally long and lingering Indian summer days. The result was a harvest that was generally trouble-free and that has earned a "good" rating.
The wine grape harvest was 27,400 metric tons, down slightly from the 1991 level of 30,000 tons. Wine grape prices in 1992 were on average 4.6% above 1991 levels. Total harvest, including juice processing and fresh market totaled 50,000 metric tons.
1992 saw the opening of several new wineries, bringing the number of licensed wineries to 32. It is anticipated that a number of planned wineries will be receiving their licenses in 1993. The majority of the new wineries are farm or cottage wineries, with planned capacity of between 10,000 and 20,000 cases.
Vineland Estate Wines in Vineland has been sold by Herman Weis of Germany to John Howard of Beamsville. Allan Schmidt continues at the winery as the winemaker. Brights Wines Ltd. Niagara Falls, Canada's largest winery is for sale by the Hatch family who own the controlling shares. An internal group, comprised of President Ed Arnold, four vice presidents and Toronto businessman Leland Vernor has bid for the winery.
New planting of wine grape varieties are primarily vinifera: Cabernet franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Gamay, J Riesling and Merlot.
The juice grape variety Niagara continues to be planted commercially for National Grape Co-operative, to a maximum of 700 acres.
There does not appear to be any interest in "organic" viticulture. Concern in Ontario is focused on the incidence of crown gall disease in 2-3 year old vines of the newer vinifera and hybrid varieties. Severity of infection ranges from 10% to 70% in affected vineyards. A rapid detection method for the presence of the pathogen is being investigated.
Phylloxera is present but is not an issue, since it does not cause vine death requiring replanting. The reason for this is that the labrusca and French hybrid varieties are phylloxera-tolerant. Similarly, all vinifera are grafted to phylloxera-tolerant rootstock.
Grape land prices are approximately 10% lower. The price of $196 U.S./ton paid for Concords should cause a substantial acreage of Concord to be pulled out. The wine grape market is stable with demand this year exceeding supply. Long-range outlook for viticulture is generally positive.