Wines & Vines special report: harvest 2004.
As always, we contacted farm advisors and other professionals, who sent us first-hand information of the year's activities in their regions across the continent. Not all were able to meet our deadline, but, as you'll see, many did. The accounts they have provided paint a vivid portrait of the past 12 months in the North American grape and wine industry, with dramatic details of the perils and triumphs encountered along the way.
We are grateful to all our correspondents, and hope you will find their reports enlightening. Late-arriving reports will be published in future issues.
by Erica Lundquist
Viticulturist Lake County Winegrape Commission
The warm temperatures in March and April encouraged early bud break throughout Lake County, and the timing of bloom and veraison were also 10-14 days ahead of normal. Temperatures remained ideal throughout the county, with no significant heat spikes and very few days with highs above 100[degrees]F. Growers and wineries reported no problems with powdery mildew, despite temperatures that were conducive to its growth.
Harvest time lasted longer than usual in Lake County with Sauvignon Blanc harvest starting in August, and some red winegrapes harvested in October. The early harvest of Sauvignon Blanc was due both to a light crop, from 20-50% down on mature vineyards, and because good flavors and sugar-to-acid balance occurred at lower sugar levels than usual. While yields of red varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah were light-to-average on mature vines, overall tonnage of these grapes is unlikely to decrease, due to the rising yields of recently planted vineyards.
There were reports of wineries requesting extended hang time, especially for Cabernet Sauvignon, either due to winery capacity limitations or for continuing flavor development. Continued mild fall weather conditions helped to maintain these grapes in excellent condition, with little shrivel or weight loss.
The winegrape market remained tough for Lake County growers. Although very little fruit went unsold in 2004, some winegrapes sold at low prices as seen in 2003.
There were several new developments in the Lake County winegrape industry. The Red Hills area of Lake County was officially designated as an American Viticultural Area in September of 2004. The Red Hills AVA is a mountainous area with elevations from 1,400 to 3,000 feet above sea level. More than 90% of the soils in the Red Hills are of volcanic origin and high in gravel content. These well-drained soils are strikingly red in color. This new appellation will soon be found on several new wine labels for the 2004 vintage.
On the north shore of Clear Lake, three new wineries opened. Tulip Hill Winery and Ceago del Lago opened in Nice, and Shannon Ridge Winery opened a tasting room in Clearlake Oaks. On the south side of the lake, Cougar's Leap Winery is now open by appointment.
MENDOCINO AND LAKE COUNTIES
by Glenn McGourty
Winegrowing and Plant Science Advisor
UCCE Mendocino and Lake Counties
Rainfall was normal for the 2004 growing season, but ended early in March, transitioning to one of the warmest springs on record. Bud break was about two weeks early, and that set the pace for the entire season.
Flowering, veraison and harvest were also early. In Mendocino County, most growers did not run their frost protection systems. In higher elevations in Lake County, growers frost protected only four nights or less, well below normal.
May and June were warm, but not excessively hot. Vine canopies expanded well and were very healthy, owing to low disease, insect and mite pressure.
Bloom occurred around the first week of May for Chardonnay in the Ukiah Valley, and five to seven days later in Anderson Valley and Big Valley. Even late varietals were blooming by the end of May, well ahead of schedule for most years.
Veraison: began in mid-July, and sparkling wine harvest began mid-August. By late August, harvest was well underway, and was concluded by the third week of October for most growers.
Generally, the season had few surprises or major problems. Fruit quality was very good for the most part, and harvest went smoothly, with few over-capacity delivery days.
White winegrape yields were much lower than normal, off by as much as 50%; region-wide, the total white tonnage was off by 30%. Fruit was very ripe, yet maintained good acidity.
For red winegrapes, yields were down 10-15%. Quality was excellent, and with the favorable weather, most growers were able to allow the fruit to have plenty of hang time and to reach flavor maturity.
The marketplace still remains unsettled for growers selling fruit in our region, especially for fruit that is uncontracted. A light harvest and improving wine sales still haven't stopped the overall region market from slumping. Some fruit was left hanging, due to no home (mostly Carignane, a little Merlot and Pinot Noir). Chardonnay appears to be performing better this year, but spot market prices are still down from the 2000 prices.
Vineyard planting has really slowed down, being limited mostly to replants. Vineyards that are being removed fall into the hard-to-sell categories, such as Carignane, Napa Gamay, Cabernet Franc and French Colombard.
The custom crush business has been brisk, and growers have used this marketing option fairly well, in most cases. The demand for good North Coast appellation wines has increased as excess inventories are declining for many wineries.
Both Lake and Mendocino counties have bright spots in the past year's accomplishments. In June, eight Mendocino wineries released "Coro" blends, a red wine patterned after Italian and other European multi-varietal appellation wines. Coro wines are based on Zinfandel and other Mediterranean varietals to show the brilliance of Mendocino's best interior vineyards. The wines have ripeness, richness, crisp acidity, lots of fruit, complexity and full body. In the blend, Northern French varietals are limited to 10%. Wineries in the project must approve all wines that will be packaged in a standardized bottle with common label appearance. Only the logo of the individual producer is different on the package. Ten wineries are now participating in the program, and initial critical review has been positive.
In Lake County, three new winery tasting rooms opened on Highway 20, including Tulip Hill, Shannon Ridge and Ceago del Lago, a very impressive, Mediterranean-style villa and bio-dynamically farmed wine estate owned by Jim Fetzer. Lake County is improving its position as a wine and tourist destination in the North Coast.
If the U.S. economy stays strong, 2005 should be a good growing season for Lake and Mendocino county growers. We appear to be improving the supply and demand picture.
by Maxwell Norton
UC Cooperative Extension
This year was calm, with no major events to contend with. High mildew pressure early in the year was responded to with tighter sulfur and fungicide schedules.
There were no significant weather-related losses. There were reports of some crop losses in black varieties from leaving the crop on the vines too long, which caused them to dehydrate.
Like the rest of the state, maturity was advanced by two weeks, which caused a few scheduling problems. Fortunately, all of the growers in our area were able to sell their crops well before harvest, which takes a lot of anxiety out of the year.
by Ed Weber
Viticulture Farm Advisor
UC Cooperative Extension
A recent Wines & Vines article by Dan Berger presaged "the end of Cabernet Sauvignon," due to the plethora of high alcohol, boring wines that he tastes. He puts the blame on winemakers' fears of methoxypyrazine and green flavors, resulting in long hang times and over-ripe fruit. Winegrower Andy Beckstoffer recently challenged researchers to study whether long hang times are shortening the productive life of vineyards. The 2004 season did nothing to assuage these concerns, as Brix levels soared during September heat.
The season began with heat and ended with heat. In March, records were set during a two-week heat spell that generated temperatures in the 70s and 80s. This stimulated early bud break and rapid shoot development. Fortunately, frost was not a factor after this. The season stayed on an early track, with all phenological stages being advanced. Bloom began in April and was variable in duration. The earliest vineyards to bloom did so quickly and uniformly, but many others had a protracted bloom period lasting several weeks. Veraison was also early, and many were predicting the earliest harvest ever.
The harvest for sparkling wine began at the end of July at near record dates. Cool weather intervened in early August, postponing the start of harvest for still wines. Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir were harvested in mid- to late August, and the first Merlots and Cabernets were picked in early September.
A heat wave in early September created problems for many producers. Despite irrigation, clusters began to wither in the heat. However, winemakers felt that the fruit did not yet have ripe flavors. As the heat continued, decisions were made as to the best course of action. In some cases, vineyards were harvested multiple times--first to harvest just the shriveled fruit, then the rest was picked later to allow for flavor development, albeit at very high sugar levels. A new vocabulary of shrivel terms rapidly emerged: "golf ball dimpling is all right, but try to avoid deep folds and raisining."
Yields were low in most varieties, generally down 15-20%. Some blocks, especially Sauvignon Blanc, were off as much as 50%. Cluster counts were reduced (due to cool weather in 2003) and many cluster weights were reduced due to heat stress. The low yield and improved wine market created greater demand for fruit than there was in 2003.
Vine mealybug continues to be the pest of greatest concern here. Introduced on infested grape nursery stock, it was first found in Napa County in September 2002. It has now been found in more than 30 Napa vineyards, and there is evidence of vineyard-to-vineyard spread. The other pest of major concern, the glassy-winged sharpshooter, fortunately is still absent from Napa County.
SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY
by Paul S. Verdegaal
UC Farm Advisor
The 2003 season was a mixed year, but the dominant theme was an early harvest. The season started a little early and ended as the earliest on record. The good news was that the grape glut has dissipated, with some upward movement of minimum prices. Bad and good news was a smaller crop, which allowed wineries to adjust.
More good news was that 2004 holds a great potential for wine quality to help further recognition of the Lodi district. More bad news: Competition for selling that wine will still be tough, and grower returns have a way to go to fully recover from increased costs and regulations. The challenge is to not only to maintain quality, but also to increase it for consumer value.
Bud break began slightly early, but by July fruit ripening was well ahead of any year that anyone could remember. Early spring conditions were very mild and very dry. Total rainfall was below normal, but seemed to occur in more effective rain events. This provided better soil moisture for 2004 compared with 2003, when root zones were dry at 3 feet.
Early spring shoot growth seemed to benefit from the mild conditions, not only being ahead of schedule but well above normal, almost to the point of concern.
According to the model, environmental conditions were ideal for powdery mildew, but disease incidence didn't become a widespread or severe problem. Compared with the severe and widespread spider mite problems of the previous year, there were few bad situations this year. Grape leafhopper problems were scattered, but fairly normal.
The glassy-winged sharpshooter program has kept the area free of that threat, but vine mealybug (VMB) did establish itself in more than a dozen vineyards to varying degree. Growers, labor contractors and custom harvesters are extra vigilant for its appearance anywhere. Intensive localized control programs are in place to restrict, if not eliminate it at some sites. Research and time will tell how much of a problem VMB may become for growers.
Problems of berry shrivel and partial or whole cluster collapse have been causing concern, but seemed to be less severe than last year. There is some debate statewide as to whether we are facing a new disease or vine disorder, especially with Syrah. It may involve an unidentified virus or virus-like agent in the case of Syrah. Problems in other varieties suggest there may just be too much vine stress in some cases. Locally, there have been some virus problems, besides extreme water deficits imposed, dry soil conditions in late season, heat stress and vine nutrition problems and at times, all of the above. Some extreme growing conditions during the last two or three years may have exacerbated these problems, making them more evident.
Although the season was relatively mild, with only four 100[degrees]F days going into September (average is 19 days), the very dry and mild spring seemed to accelerate vine development. July 23 marked the beginning of harvest in earnest, a full week ahead of 1997, and about three to four weeks ahead of normal. There may have been a couple of selected pickings before that date for special small lots, but by that fourth Friday in July many blocks of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Verdelho were ready for delivery.
The variety progression of ripening started out nice and orderly. It quickly turned into most everything being ready for harvest, with the exception of very late season varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Carmenere, Teroldego and Trincadeira. Crop loads were lighter than average, from fewer and smaller clusters on all varieties.
The lower crop levels helped speed up harvest even beyond what would be expected for an early start. All varieties were affected, with lower than average yields, but some varieties suffered more so. Of course, as always, there were exceptions by site and vine age. Varieties worst affected seemed to be Chardonnay and Syrah. Overall crush figures will probably be close to last year, with the help of a good flower set and some more new production.
Reasons for fewer and smaller clusters might go back to last year's extremely dry soil conditions and excessive heat during July, the hottest July in 20 years. Bud development for the 2004 crop may have been hindered at that time last year. Curiously, last year's heat extremes followed the coldest April in 20 years. So while the 2004 season had generally mild temperatures and relatively good soil moisture, there were fewer viable clusters, and smaller ones at that. Zinfandel and Merlot crops were so light last year that both of those varieties seemed to be less affected than other varieties including Syrah, Chardonnay and Muscat Blanc, among others.
Some varieties made up for fewer and smaller clusters with better berry set from the perfect bloom conditions in late April and early May. This did induce a little bunch rot in Zinfandel and other tight-cluster varieties--more than would otherwise be expected--but still low. Harvest conditions remained dry, problems were minimal and quality was high.
As ripening progressed, sugar levels soared while vintners waited for flavor development, but rot incidence remained low. Total acid levels and pH were very good, colors excellent and fruit flavors very good to excellent. Overall, a smaller crop and general harvest conditions seemed to provide the opportunity for very good to excellent fruit quality.
Harvest was compressed this year, but wine quality should rival the 1999 and 2001 vintages. Many growers experienced "picking for flavors" with various wineries. The early season and desire for fully ripened flavors caused some blocks to reach extremely high sugar levels, as grower anxiety levels followed. This topic may receive more than a little "discussion" from both the economic and organoleptic perspectives. By Oct. 1, the harvest was done. Normally, a few late vineyards are not harvested until the beginning of November.
Grape prices didn't improve dramatically, but minimum prices did come up. Low offers were $125 to $200 per ton, up from $65 to $100 in 2003. Across varieties, average prices were about the same this year, and either declined or increased very slightly. The range continues to be widespread, depending on fruit destination (wine program and winery). Many growers were resigned to be in the $250 to $500 per ton range, but selected lots of vineyard-designated wines received as much as $1,200 to $2,500 per ton.
There were encouraging signs of demand and price improvement, but they depended on variety, vineyard site and winery. Some short-term contracts were being offered and some vineyards were removed for replanting, along with a small number of new acres planned. Pinot Grigio and Petite Sirah have led the way in renewed interest, both planted and grafted, while Petit Verdot, Malbec and a range of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese varieties are proving their potential for growers and vintners.
More small wineries have been established, and more are planned. The Lodi district currently has 50 wineries, compared to less than a dozen 10 years ago. The big news was the offer of Constellation Wines to purchase the Woodbridge Winery of Robert Mondavi, along with other Mondavi wineries and labels.
Relatively low prices, combined with a smaller crop, tended to be discouraging for individual growers (no news there) but the doldrums of oversupply should be behind, with things looking up. Challenges lie ahead and are many, but next year and the long-term future still look good for the Lodi district and San Joaquin County.
SAN LUIS OBISPO AND SANTA BARBARA COUNTIES
by Mark Battany
Viticulture/Soils Farm Advisor
UC Cooperative Extension
San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties found little relief from the drought of the past several seasons; after some significant rainfall in December 2003, relatively little additional moisture fell in early 2004. Many growers applied winter irrigation to help offset the cumulative effects of the drought; increasing soil salinity and dry wells are a concern in some areas.
The 2004 season was characterized early with cycles of hot and cool temperatures. Early and mid-March saw temperatures in the mid- to high 80s in most areas, followed by several weeks of cooler weather. Unusually high temperatures returned again in late April and early May, with most areas reaching the upper 90s. The rest of the season was relatively mild, with the most significant hot weather not arriving until the first half of September. Overall, growing degree day accumulations were slightly below average for most areas.
The cycling of hot and cool temperatures at bloom appeared to be the primary culprit behind the low fruit set in many vineyards. Lower yields led to an early start on harvest, which was also accelerated by the September heat. Overall quality has been reported as well above average, and the expectations are for a very good 2004 vintage.
Redevelopment of older vineyards continues, with growers continuing to take advantage of weak market conditions to renovate. New winery-owned vineyards also continue to be established on a limited scale. The recent years of poor market conditions led to many predictions of significant vineyard property sales in the area, but the amount of such activity has probably been less than was expected several years ago.
by Rhonda J. Smith
UC Cooperative Extension
Grapevines got off to an unusually early start because of record-breaking warm weather during three weeks in March, when an east-to-west airflow brought air from the Nevada desert across the mountains and to the coast. Temperatures were 15-25[degrees] above average. It broke 80[degrees]F by Mar. 8 in most of the county and was 90[degrees]F a week later in Cloverdale. Shoot growth was early and extensive.
Another record-breaking heat spell hit briefly in late April, when temperatures approached 100[degrees] in the north county where Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese ranged from first to full bloom. May and June had sustained mild to warm weather, and summer arrived again, just before the official end of spring, when high temperatures ranged from the mid-80s to mid-90s. July temperatures were oddly cool, since southerly winds caused low clouds and, at times, fog to stick around into the afternoon, forcing daily high temperatures in many locations to remain below 80[degrees]F.
The growing season remained one to three weeks ahead of schedule from start to finish. In Dry Creek and Alexander valleys, mid-April Chardonnay bloom dates were imminent until a cool, drizzly period held them off until near the end of the month. Chardonnay fruit set was complete in some Alexander Valley ranches by mid-May. In the Russian River, Chardonnay bunch closure was seen by the end of the first week in June.
Harvest for sparkling wine began for some growers on Aug. 2 in the Russian River Valley and Aug. 11 in Sonoma. Machine and night hand picking contributed to a fast-paced harvest in early/mid August. Picking slowed for a few days when cooler temperatures occurred, only to rev up again in early September. Warm weather and low humidity in the first week of September drove tons of grapes--from all varieties--into wineries. The Geysers wildfire burned over the hot Labor Day weekend, when smoke filled much of Alexander Valley and adjacent regions. By mid-month, many wineries were well over halfway through their crush.
Low yields throughout the county contributed to the early harvest. Late-pruned vines seemed to have poorer bud break than early-pruned blocks--possibly due to the extraordinarily high temperatures in March. In general, flower cluster counts were low, and the second cluster on many shoots simply failed to appear--likely due to low temperatures in 2003 that impacted tissue differentiation in developing dormant buds. Cane-pruned vines tended to have more crop than did cordon trained/spur-pruned vines; however bud break along the canes was, for many, disappointing.
Some estimates put the total grape crop slightly higher than last year's 161,000 tons, due to new acres coming on board. However, low cluster counts, and delayed harvest dates--required by some wineries--which often resulted in cluster weight loss, may offset the increase.
It was still a buyer's market, and grape prices remained well under district average. Nearly--but not quite all--grapes were sold in the county. One-year contracts are becoming common, but prices for Chardonnay improved from last year, since supply and demand are coming into balance. Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir have the most nonbearing acreage, and while Cabernet was hard to sell, there was an increased demand for Russian River Pinot.
GWSS inspections by the Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner's office stopped June 30, but one shipment of ornamental plants was rejected the following month, when a sharp-eyed inspector found a viable egg mass on a plant that had already been delivered to a job site by a landscaper.
There are 13 sites with compliance agreements for vine mealybug. Adult males were trapped at all but one of these sites in 2004. The UC Cooperative Extension Sonoma County office coordinated a voluntary trapping program, and processed more than 3,000 traps. The agricultural commissioner's office put out more than 300 traps in selected areas. Based on male finds, it appears that additional, as yet unidentified sites with female vine mealybug infestations may number fewer than 10.
by Chris Lake
Wiederkehr Wine Cellars
The 2004 season was challenging for most growers in Arkansas. The winter was mild, and vines went into dormancy without any undue stresses evident. Cool and wet weather dominated much of March and April, with rainfall totals exceeding the seasonal normal by 4.2 and 2.5 inches respectively. A storm near the end of April brought high winds and scattered hail events. Vines planted on higher elevations suffered slight shoot breakage due to wind and hail, but no significant crop reduction was noted. Bud break occurred for early varieties on Mar. 19, and on Apr. 2 for late varieties.
May was relatively warm and dry, with temperatures 2.3[degrees]F above normal and precipitation 3 inches below normal, providing nearly ideal conditions for bloom. The only drawback to May was the lack of adequate sunlight, with 17 days during the month having significant cloud cover. Bloom progressed normally and benefited from the warm, dry weather, resulting in an average fruit set.
June and July are typically warm and relatively dry, but this season brought cool and wet conditions that challenged growers to keep up with exceptionally high disease pressure. Atypical rainfall amounts of 7.8 and 7.3 inches in June and July, combined with temperatures 1.2[degrees] and 3.1[degrees]F below normal, presented serious obstacles to timely spray application and coverage. Outbreaks of powdery mildew, downy mildew and to a lesser extent phomopsis and black rot were common, the area's growers reported.
Veraison was delayed as much as 10 days by the cool, cloudy weather. August came as a relief, with rainfall reduced to a total of 1.3 inches for the entire month. Temperatures were also a welcome relief. The average maximum was 88[degrees]F, with the highest temperature recorded as 97[degrees]F on Aug. 27, while the average minimum was 66[degrees]F. The moderate daytime temperatures and relatively cool nighttime temperatures were likely the saving grace to what had become a season of pitched battles against fungal pathogens.
Once growers had diseases at bay, they were able to go into harvest with the hopes that cooler than normal temperatures, particularly the lower nighttime temperatures, would produce fruit with more flavor maturity, higher acids, optimum pH levels and better than average color development. Harvest was delayed by 10 to 14 days, due to the cool growing season.
Table grape harvest began by July 20. Winegrape harvest began during the second week of August with early ripening hybrids like Seyval, and continued until Cabernet Sauvignon and Cynthiana were picked by the end of September. Additionally, the harvest of Muscadines continued until early October.
Some instances of late season grape berry moth infestation were noted. Entomologists with the University of Arkansas are predicting that next season will begin with larger than normal overwintering populations of grape berry moth, as well as an expected return of green June beetle populations. New pheromone-based traps will be evaluated next season for green June beetle control.
Crop yields were below average to average, with good set but reduced berry development due to unfavorable weather following set and significant losses to disease. The best aspect of the 2004 season was that fruit quality was everything that growers had hoped for on fruit that was adequately protected from disease. For example, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot were harvested at 23 to 25[degrees] Brix, hybrids came in at 20 to 22[degrees] Brix and even the late-ripening American hybrid Cynthiana made 22 to 24[degrees] Brix. All of these numbers are one to two points greater than normal.
Generally, fruit came in with higher sugars, higher acids, lower pH, improved color and more flavor than previous seasons. Supply and demand of grapes in Arkansas are generally in balance, with some desire of wineries to have more acreage planted to winegrapes, but fewer growers in the region to meet the anticipated increased demand.
Acreage in Arkansas is diminishing following the loss of the juice processing industry in the northwest section of the state. Current estimates indicate that there are 1,200 bearing acres, a decline from 2,200 bearing acres recorded in 1992. Total annual production of grape products in the state is estimated at 650,000 gallons.
Following the 2003 season, the only large-scale juice processor in the northwest corner of the state stopped receiving locally grown fruit, and growers in that region had to find other homes for their fruit. Regional population increases in that section of the state have created dramatically higher property values in the areas where juice grape production has traditionally been practiced, and generally juice grape producers have sold their vineyards to the highest bidder and retired from commercial grape production. Currently there is a proposal, sponsored by one winery, to enact legislation that would provide a tax incentive to grapegrowers willing to plant Muscadines. Muscadines are adapted to the central and southern portions of the state, and products made from Muscadines (wine, juice, jellies and jam) are projected to increase in demand. The Arkansas Winegrape Growers Association wants to broaden the initiative to include all types of winegrapes. Political support for the wine and grape industries, as well as an increasingly affluent regional population, point to a future expansion of viticulture in Arkansas.
by Dr. Horst Caspari
Colorado State University WCRC
Colorado's 2004 grape production is projected to be less than the record harvest in 2003, although it may still be the second largest crop since Prohibition. Many Colorado vineyards sustained cold injury when a very mild fall came to a sudden, and very damaging halt in late November 2003. Temperatures in the Grand Valley AVA fell from highs in the low 60s on Nov. 21 to lows around 5-10[degrees]F on the morning of Nov. 23. In some locations, temperatures fell below 0[degrees]F. Some vineyards sustained close to 100% bud damage, while others had only minor injury or none.
The winter was cool, but without further temperature extremes (cold or hot), and caused no further damage. Bud break was slightly earlier than average, but with few exceptions there was no damage from spring frosts.
Spring temperatures were slightly warmer than average, while summer temperatures were average, followed by a rather cool fall. The cool temperatures during September and October, combined with more frequent rainfalls, caused very slow ripening, particularly for late varieties. While many growers consider the 2004 season a cool one, this is not supported by long-term weather records, which show the season had above-average growing degree day (GDD) accumulation. This misperception is due to the fact that the 2004 season follows four very hot years (the 2000-2003 growing seasons are ranked first, second, fifth and fourth in GDD over the past 41 years).
As in 2003, the supply tightly matched the demand for Colorado-grown grapes. Grape prices are slightly down or unchanged, depending on variety. The vineyard area continued to expand at a steady rate, and several new wineries either opened their doors to the public or had their first crush during 2004.
Precipitation during spring and summer was higher than in past years, resulting in a higher powdery mildew pressure. No new pests or diseases have been reported.
With the continuing expansion of the producing vineyard area, Colorado is poised to break the production record set in 2003. As always, weather conditions during winter and spring--more than anything else--will ultimately decide the size of the 2005 crop.
For the latest information on Colorado's vineyards, including area and production statistics, visit colostate.edu/programs/wcrc/viticulture.html, or coloradowine.com for information on our wineries.
by David Harris
Georgia vineyards experienced greatly improved growing conditions in 2004 compared to 2003, when near-record rainfalls were experienced in several regions on the East Coast. Although most of Georgia's vinifera vineyards are located at high elevations in the North Georgia Mountains (1,300-2,000 feet), the southern latitude of the region avoided winter damage, which was more commonly experienced in the northern latitudes in 2004.
The Dahlonega Mountains region, which has the highest concentration of vineyards in Georgia, experienced average timing of bud break for Chardonnay, evolving slowly through the first week of April due to a cold front. Most vineyards remained frost-free throughout the spring, although a very late May 2 frost nipped some higher elevation vineyards (above 2,000 feet) with minimal losses.
The low sunlight/high rainfall throughout the East Coast in 2003 caused a marked bud necrosis problem in 2004 in some Rhone varieties, particularly Viognier. While Syrah and Mourvedre appeared to have some losses due to necrosis, Viognier ran as high as 70%. This often resulted in bud failure of the entire node, including primary, secondary and tertiary buds, and sometimes expressed itself by growth of multiple sterile shoots from a single node. This translated directly into a 70% lower crop for Viognier. The problem has been significant in past years, with no apparent remedy in sight. All other varieties were at normal crop levels.
Even, dry, warm conditions throughout May and early June yielded moderate growth, deep leaf color, and good berry set, but a wet second half of June created some botrytis pressure in Chardonnay. This three-week period saw rainfall totals of 8 to 12 inches, but just as growers began to envision a repeat of 2003, July 4 marked the end of the rain, and the end of most disease pressure. The next six weeks were fairly dry, yielding less than 3 inches of rain in the region, which is very little for the stony, steep vineyard soils of the region. Veraison was slightly later than normal, but progressed well throughout the warm, dry July weather. Overall, disease pressure for the season was very low.
Three cool fronts moved through the region in August, making this August one of the coolest ones in recent memory. One sunny day was only 75[degrees] in North Georgia, not typical of August in Georgia. In total, 11 days hovered around the high 70s most of the day, with a number of cool nights in the low 50s. This was ultimately instrumental in preserving acidity and significantly extending the hang time in some varieties, most notably Merlot.
The '04 harvest became a long, slow developing harvest due, in part, to the good acid retention of the cool season and low disease pressure, and, in part, due to the successive waves of tropical hurricane weather. Harvesting of whites and some early reds (for rose) began in late August and early September at average mountain elevations (1,300-1,800 feet). Lower elevation Piedmont vineyards started a couple of weeks earlier.
The North Georgia Mountains dodged the first two hurricanes of the season altogether--Charlie and Jeanne, although other weather fronts brought pesky rains and cool weather, which slowed the harvest, but only slightly dampened quality. Whites, on the whole, held up well, but some of the thinner-skinned reds began to see some breakdown.
Much tougher decisions would be made in the face of Frances and Ivan, as North Georgia stared directly into the eye of those storms. A mad rush ensued to bring in all fields that were ripe and poised for rot. It also looked as if bringing in varieties at less than optimum ripeness would be a good call, especially in the case of Ivan, which was forecast to stall for up to three days in the Southern Blue Ridge. This, however, was not the case, as each storm moved in and out within 24 hours and was followed by several days of breezy-to-windy, sunny, dry-air masses. Although there was little heat to dry the soil (or accelerate rot), patient growers lucked out by getting a significant drying effect from the wind on the hillsides.
The effects of the 4- to 5-inch rain events were minimized for several reasons: First, the red clay soils of the region do not readily absorb high amounts of water in a short duration, and second, the 20-30% slopes of most vineyard sites provided the drainage to minimize the effects of the rain. These storms were interspersed with otherwise exceptionally dry periods, more characteristic of the season, and growers were rewarded with the gamble to let the crop hang. For example, from Sept. 18 to Oct. 11, there was only one rainy day out of 20, which provided excellent conditions for the Merlot, Cabernet, Mourvedre and other red varietals to ripen, yielding wines with excellent color, ripe tannins, and exceptional aromas. This was the profile of a year in which quality of the vineyard management made a huge difference, because if the grapes were positioned to hold up through the early challenges of the harvest, most varieties eventually got a great ripening opportunity in the back stretch.
Some exceptions were in areas that experienced rainfall for either longer durations or more intensity without the benefits of good drainage. One isolated case sustained more than 12 inches of rain from one storm. Also, outside of North Georgia's wine country, South Georgia's Muscadine vineyards sustained some devastating effects. The hurricanes hit this area with higher winds and harder rains. Since the connection between the pedicel and berry is not very strong on a Muscadine at harvest time, significant amounts of the crop were knocked to the ground. At this writing, Georgia's vineyards have remained frost-free for several weeks post-harvest, and vines have benefited from an excellent recovery period.
Vinifera prices rebounded from the suppressed market of 2003 by an average of more than $250 per ton. This yielded a range of $1,400-$2,300 per ton, with an average of $1,650 per ton for quality vinifera. Higher prices were paid for the light Rhone crop; however, this only partially offset the losses created by bud necrosis, where, for example, the cost of growing '04 Viognier in the southeast is estimated to be in excess of $3,000/ton, with most producers receiving one ton or less per acre from the average VSP vineyard.
Georgia wines have garnered unprecedented notoriety in the last few years, and appear to be on the cusp of an industry boom with the number of new wineries expected to double in the next 12-18 months, to exceed 20 in 2006. Atlanta remains a juggernaut wine market, but alas, cooperation from the wholesale monopolies and acceptance of local wines are hard won victories. Tourism to the popular North Georgia Mountains remains the primary marketing avenue for the state's wines.
State support has been forthcoming in recent years, and none too soon, considering Georgia has successful vinifera vineyards that are now more than 25 years old. Initial funds for a Georgia winery brochure and funds for the development of georgiawine.com were significant achievements, although legislative approval for a grape specialist was subsequently cut from the budget by Dean Buchanan, the University's School of Agriculture dean.
Other cooperation for the industry has also been hard won, with some rudimentary wine trail signage from Georgia's DOT remaining far short of the support other states have received. Recently, a USDA marketing grant was awarded to the Winegrowers Association of Georgia. These achievements have helped to offset a long-standing regulatory environment that has hampered marketing efforts of regional wines.
Recent new wineries in Georgia include Wolf Mountain, Frogtown Cellars, Crane Creek, Persimmon Creek, 1810 Country Inn & Winery and Sharp Mountain Winery.
by Bruce Bordelon, Ph.D.
The 2004 growing season was fairly typical across the Midwest. The winter was about normal, with one event with lows in the mid-teens below zero, so winter injury was not a major issue in most areas. Rainfall was evenly distributed throughout the growing season, and temperatures were below normal throughout much of the summer. Harvest was a few days later than normal, and fruit quality was excellent, due to the cool temperatures and dry conditions after veraison.
Disease problems were not severe in 2004. Powdery mildew was the most common problem this season, likely due to the cooler temperatures. Modern pest management practices are very effective at controlling the common grape diseases encountered in the Midwest.
The multi-colored Asian lady beetle (MALB) has become a significant problem over the past few years in the Midwest. Fortunately, the populations this year were very low compared to 2003, and no problems were reported.
Demand for Indiana-grown grapes continues to stimulate an increase in acreage as new wineries open and existing wineries increase sales. Excellent quality, medal-winning wines are being produced from locally grown hybrid and vinifera grapes. Existing growers continue to expand acreage, and a few new vineyards were established this year. Most of the new plantings have been in the premium hybrids, but some vinifera varieties are being produced on the best sites.
Prices paid for quality grapes have increased steadily over the past few years. A survey conducted by the University of Kentucky found that the average price for hybrids is about $800 per ton. The survey is available at uky.edu/ag/newcrops/grapeprice.pdf.
Three new wineries opened in 2004, bringing the total number of wineries in Indiana to 32. Several wineries are in the final stages of development and are expected to open in the near future. Sales of Indiana wine continue to increase by an average of 15% each year, a trend that has continued since 1994. Welcoming more than 1 million visitors each year, the Indiana wine industry is a big player in the Indiana economy. In summer 2004, more than 5,000 people attended the fifth annual Vintage Indiana Wine & Food Festival in Indianapolis for an opportunity to sample and purchase Indiana wine. For additional information about the Indiana wine industry, or to inquire on starting a winery or vineyard in Indiana, please visit indianawines.org.
by Jack Johnston
Maryland Grape Growers Association
Most growers in Maryland will agree that that the previous season--2003--was a year best forgotten, and counted on better conditions in '04. Things did improve, but still not up to pre-'03 standards.
December went on record as the wettest year in decades, with lots of snow. January and February were cold, with a good deal of ice and snow. Spring got started with off/on cold and alternating wet/dry periods. May and June were warm, with lots of thunderstorms. Things got worse in July with thunderstorms throughout the month, then improved somewhat in August with drier weather but few instances of temperatures above 90. September brought the remnants of several hurricanes, which did little damage but dumped lots of rain. October was mostly sunny but without any high temperatures to compensate for the earlier rains. As a result, some varieties were harvested later than normal to allow sugars and pHs to improve.
Growers were advised by our extension agents that the horrendous downy mildew outbreak last season would be back, and this proved correct. Heavy use of the appropriate fungicides mitigated the potential damage, but vines still lost leaves after veraison. Powdery mildew was also on the rampage this season.
Other pests this year included an infestation of grape berry moth. Thinner-skinned varieties, mostly whites, were hit hard, turning golden clusters into brown pulp, which shriveled to brittle husks on the vine. Yellow jackets were also on the rampage, wreaking havoc even on the thicker-skinned Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc. Asian lady beetles were back in force, just as it seemed like they were phasing out. Japanese beetles, as usual, were heavy in some areas, virtually nonexistent in others. Birds didn't start being a nuisance until late September.
Crop sizes in some varieties were discouragingly small. Early maturing varieties fared the best, particularly the hybrids. But production of varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon was 25 to 50% of normal, partially because of the heavy downy mildew-induced defoliation last season, which denied nourishment to the vines for the winter. The varieties which did better volume-wise were devastated by the aforementioned berry moths and yellow jackets. Winter injury was widespread, adding to the woes.
Like last year, growers struggled with excess canopy growth. Every shoot, it seemed, produced numerous laterals, which in turn produced multiple secondary clusters. In spite of pre-emergent herbicide application, weeds proliferated out of control in many vineyards, exacerbating the aforementioned problems and requiring additional time-consuming measures to deal with them.
In spite of all the problems, there are positive indications regarding fruit quality. The harvested grapes displayed good color, flavor and texture, and should result in a significant improvement over the vintage of '03.
A Wine and Grape Advisory Committee was established to serve as a task force for the industry, and to make recommendations to the governor on how to advance the state's winegrape initiatives. Among the high priority items to be considered are a germ plasm repository to provide virus-free vine stock, and a mapping project to identify prime grape-growing locations in the state. The committee will be comprised of representatives of the winery and vineyard organizations, as well as the Maryland Department of Agriculture.
by David Creighton
Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council
Conditions in Michigan's two wine-making regions differed markedly. Michigan's winemakers are reporting good to very good grape quality and quantity in the northwest, and very good to great quality in the southwest. This follows a short crop in 2003 in the northwest caused by cold damage.
Michigan's winegrape production is almost equally divided between the Lake Michigan Shore AVA in the southwest, and the Leelanau Peninsula and Old Mission Peninsula AVAs 160 miles north. In 2004, these two regions received their typical 600-degree-day difference in heat accumulation, but there were other major differences as well.
In the southwest, veraison began before the end of July, following an early spring and a mild winter, while in the northwest, veraison didn't begin until September, following a late spring and a relatively mild winter. Harvest was slightly early in the southwest and slightly late in the northwest. Neither region had received frost through early November, and harvesting of some varieties continued in the northwest.
Growers in all areas suffered through periods of atypically cold and wet weather; but even in June the southwest was showing higher-than-normal heat accumulations, while the northwest was showing lower-than-normal accumulations. September turned the tide for everyone, with the longest sunny and dry period ever for that month. The Pinots and Gewurztraminer seem to have done very well in the northwest and should equal 2002. Nearly all varieties showed beautifully in the southwest, with one veteran winemaker reporting "the best crop I've ever seen."
New vineyards and wineries continue to spring up. The previous year saw the region's first Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscat. The southwest in particular is seeing more plantings of Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Michigan still suffers from a shortage of many varieties and is encouraging new plantings.
by John Marshall
Secretary, Minnesota Grape
Great River Vineyard/Nursery
Last growing season (2003) there was an extensive drought. In some areas it became extreme. In Minnesota, most vineyards are not irrigated, as extreme drought is rare in this region. While the crop ripened well in the extensive heat and sunshine, the lack of water caused many vineyards to be under extreme drought stress. This appears to have reduced growth. Most young vineyards needed to be watered, and in some cases even mature vines showed wilting and were watered. This stress appears to have caused many buds to break this spring (2004) and show no fruit clusters. This drought stress appears to have caused a substantially reduced crop, even in evidently healthy and mature vineyards.
Last winter was cold, but not extremely so, and classic cold injury was largely absent. However, there was an almost total lack of snowcover until about mid-January. By that time, we had already experienced a number of -20[degrees]F episodes, and thus the frost went very deep and the topsoil became extremely cold. Many newly planted and second leaf vines with shallow root systems were damaged, particularly Prairie Star and Sabrevois. In many cases, loss of vines was substantial. Older vines appeared to be largely unharmed, with the exception of St. Croix, where even mature vines did show damage.
Spring was cool and bud break late. One notable frost occurred in mid-May and further reduced the 2004 crop, although some vineyards were badly damaged while others were not. Blossom did not take place until well into June, and veraison was very late as well.
Cool weather continued throughout the summer into August, and there was broad concern that if there was no fall warmth, ripening would be marginal. However, September and early October turned warm, and during this critical time, ripening proceeded rapidly. In truth, the crop was as good as it has been in years, and the harvest was a success. Numbers reported by various growers were in most cases excellent.
The Asian lady beetle (ALB) continues to be a concern. Although the infestation was down from 2003, it continued to cause problems. Some wineries demanded that grapes be immersed in water until the ALB floated to the top and could be removed. In this area, ALB continues to be of great concern to growers.
There continues to be upward pressure on prices for locally grown grapes of the varieties most in demand. Frontenac, Frontenac Gris, Lacrescent, Prairie Star and others continue to be in short supply, and are widely sold for $1,000/ton and more. Marechal Foch, Leon Millot and Seyval, mainstays of the Minnesota crop in past decades, are being phased out, as the vines are unreliable in the cold and some plantings are declining dramatically with age.
Planting of the above vines continues rapidly in Minnesota. It appears that the lack of propagation material for varieties most in demand is the main problem in developing and expanding local vineyards, and demand for the above varieties remains high.
Two new wineries opened their doors in Minnesota in the past year: Falconer Vineyards at Red Wing and Cannon River Winery at Cannon Falls both had their initial vintages last summer. At least two other wineries expect to open next summer, and this is likely to continue or increase the demand for locally grown grapes.
Since we had a good rainfall and a light crop, growth throughout the region was excellent. Projections are that the crop will be the largest in some years, provided there is no extreme cold this winter.
New York/Finger Lakes
by Timothy E. Martinson, Ph.D.
Area Extension Specialist
Finger Lakes Grape Program
Three weather-related events defined the size (small) and quality (good) of the 2004 crop in the Finger Lakes. First, winter injury in V. vinifera and hybrid varieties (and to a lesser extent native Labrusca types) led to significant bud mortality, trunk injury and vine mortality. This will lead to short-term (2004 crop) and long-term (vine replacement) crop losses for growers of more cold-tender varieties.
After bud burst, a warm May and dry, sunny June hastened vine development, and bloom occurred a few days early (rather than a week late as was the case in 2003). This kept development on track, despite the cold, rainy July and August that followed. From bloom to veraison, temperatures were well below normal, and rainfall was almost constant. In July we had a record 3.5 inches above average rainfall. The rainy season extended through mid-August.
After veraison, warm and sunny weather prevailed, providing growers with an optimal ripening period. Except for two heavy rainfalls associated with hurricanes Francis and Ivan, there was almost no rainfall through the second week in October. Summer happened in September this year, and provided us with another reminder of the importance of sunshine during the ripening period. This year it made up for our lack of heat and sunshine during July.
Crop size is down in all categories of grape varieties. it looks like the Finger Lakes crop will total about 27,000 tons, about two-thirds of an average 40,000-ton crop. Gross returns to growers, normally about $16 million annually, will be about $8.7 million, or 55% of average. By category:
* Natives: Major processors are estimating an average of about 4 tons/acre, about 1.7 tons below average for Concord. Nationwide, Welch's Niagara crop came in above original estimates, but down by 20% from last year's record crop. However, the Finger Lakes Concord and Niagara crops have tended to come in below estimates, while the Lake Erie region crop has come in over estimates.
* Hybrids: Whites are down by about 50%, and reds by 70%, according to processors. Both were affected by significant winter injury, and also by heavy rainfall during the critical ripening period.
* V. vinifera: Our initial estimates this spring, based on winter injury, were that vinifera would come in at about 27% of an average crop. It looks like that is about what we ended up with. Although there are some vineyards with close to a normal crop, many Chardonnay vineyards came in at one-half to 1 ton/acre. Riesling fared the best, with possibly 50% of a normal crop, followed by Cabernet Franc. Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer and Cabernet Sauvignon suffered the heaviest winter injury. Overall, we probably averaged about 1 ton per acre across all the vinifera acreage. Many vineyards will substantially recover by next year, but the number of missing vines in mature vineyards put an upper limit of about 85% of average to next year's crop. This may be offset by an estimated 50-70 acres of new vineyards that will start to produce fruit in 2005.
This season provided another reminder of how valuable sunshine and warmth are during the ripening period. After veraison, we enjoyed ideal ripening conditions, despite the wet summer. Winemakers report maturity and good flavor development, with acids and pH in the appropriate range (unlike last year, with high acids across the board), but low sugars. Concords, because of the ripening conditions and light crop, are coming in at Brix levels in the 17s--again unlike last year, when growers struggled to reach minimum Brix standards.
For natives, I think the vines will be set for a larger crop next year, with higher bud fruitfulness. Many hybrids, if they escaped trunk injury, should also be set for a larger crop, for the same reasons. For V. vinifera growers, next year will be a rebuilding year, with significant trunk renewal and vine replacement, which will continue into 2006. Some vineyards (with graft union protection and vigorous suckers) should see close to a normal crop, while others will have significant gaps to fill in their vineyards.
We move into 2005 with growers facing many crucial decisions about their operations. My hope is that wineries and growers will work together to consider how they might use this weather-related disaster to upgrade and improve our Finger Lakes vineyards. The premium winery sector has built up a reputation and a robust demand for its products, and there are opportunities for growers to expand in this area to meet future demand. Bulk processors remain committed to the region, and constitute the largest market for Finger Lakes grapes. Weather risks are part of agriculture, and this season again reminded us that wine is an agricultural product that depends upon the skill and expertise of the region's grapegrowers.
New York/Long Island
by Alice Wise
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County
The 2004 growing season presented new challenges for growers on Long Island. The big story in the eastern U.S. was the winter weather, and Long Island was no different. There were six nights in single digit temperatures, with a low of 0[degrees]F. Not until spring did we understand exactly what the low temperatures would mean for our vineyards. Several newly planted blocks lost a lot of vines. Several older Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay blocks were slow to break bud. A few Cabernet vines were lost here and there. A few others were killed to the base but new shoots could be trained up. Due to this sporadic damage, yields were down in Cabernet. Interestingly enough, Merlot, long thought to be among the more winter tender vinifera, suffered minimal winter injury. While the damage on Long Island was not as severe as that seen in other eastern winegrowing regions, it reminded us that we are still vulnerable to periodic episodes of winter injury.
The weather through the growing season was cool but very sunny. There were no days with temperatures above 90[degrees]F. May and June were dry; rainfall was average in July and August. We were very fortunate to miss the remnants of a string of tropical storms (when hurricanes hit the south, the systems weaken over land, but then travel up the East Coast).
Finally, heavy rain from the fourth system, Jeanne, dumped from 4-8 inches of rain in late September. Strong winds accompanied the rain. There were even a few cases where there might have been salt injury, as canopies in some vineyards took a precipitous nosedive after this storm. At our research vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon was much more impacted than Merlot or Chardonnay. As far as we can tell, the only difference is that the Cab vines were slightly low in nitrogen, as shown by petiole analysis. The season finished with below average temperatures but conditions were dry.
Again in 2004, the most significant pest management concerns were not botrytis and powdery mildew but rather losses to birds, deer and various other vertebrates. Bird depredation has long been an issue for local vineyards; in fact, this may be one of the worst areas in the U.S. in terms of losses to birds. In addition to large resident populations, Long Island is on a migratory flyway for many species. Starlings are a particularly troublesome species, as huge flocks amass in the fall.
Bird netting has been standard practice for many years. However, it is not enough to simply drape the netting over the rows; it is now necessary to tack it down. Birds have learned that when it is not possible to go through the nets, it is just as easy to go under them. Vines are trained to VSP with a leaf pulled cluster zone. Many clusters sitting adjacent to the nets are picked clean. One troubling aspect of bird depredation is the fact that losses are being incurred early in the season. In 2004, several growers noted feeding in the weeks prior to veraison. We knew that many blocks were being attacked at veraison in early August. But dealing with bird damage that occurs in July, that is a difficult issue. We are investigating alternative netting materials, as well as other strategies.
In recent years, whitetail deer have caused increasing amounts of damage to vineyards. They eat tender shoots in spring. Many unprotected young plantings suffer severe depredation. Bird netting poses no impediment to deer, they feed right through the nets. Many growers allow bow hunting and/or have nuisance permits to help control the large herds. In 2005, there was a significant increase in deer fencing. Many types are being employed: electric, 8-foot wire mesh rolled out across the anchor wires and permanent installations. Many ornamental plant nurseries have been forced to erect deer fences as well. The situation is unfortunate, as habitat for these animals is rapidly shrinking.
Birds and deer are the primary wildlife concerns for grape growers. However, some small vineyards in particular are seeing increasing losses to raccoons and even squirrels. The abundance of these two species is worrisome. If losses escalate, this would add a new dimension to fall wildlife control.
Otherwise, the season was reasonable, and fruit quality was very promising. Vine phenology through the season was about normal. Rain in July started up some early botrytis infections. Often, these early infections dry up, so there was no cause for panic. The rains in September kept the cluster rot going, however. This was expressed as sour rot in Gewurztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc. Many growers were sorting whites in the field or, if hand picked, sorting after harvest.
Overall, whites were low in acid, 6-7 g/l, low in Brix, less than 22[degrees] but intensely flavored. Growers were very pleased with the quality of the white varieties. Some botrytis appeared in Merlot and Cabernet, probably due to physical injury from wind and pelting rain in the September storm. The infections may have also been linked to a late harvest, as more and more growers are "letting it hang"--some Cabernet blocks are not harvested until well into November. A number of Merlot blocks yielded excellent fruit with ripe tannins and intense red fruit flavors. Cabernet Sauvignon quality varied, in part due to the cool season. Well-managed vineyards with moderate yields had good fruit. 2004 was not a year to hang a big crop of Cabernet.
Overall, 2004 will be remembered as another challenging but decent growing season. We look forward to the wines with great anticipation.
by Ted Farthing
Oregon Wine Board
As harvest approached completion, many Oregon wine producers would agree with Eric Lemelson when he said, "Vintage '04 has reminded me that we're farmers first, ultimately dependent on what nature provides." Dr. Greg Jones, geographer and climatologist, found that around the state we experienced "unsettled weather during flowering, resulting in poor fruit set." Jones explained that the French call this phenomenon coulure. As we have seen this year, coulure results in reduced yields, but in many cases enables quality when other conditions are favorable.
Hot days and cool nights characterized the first two weeks of October across the state. Vintners reported optimal ripening, balanced sugars and full physiological maturation for most varieties. The early rains in the Willamette Valley had largely subsided, and the warm dry conditions that prevailed all summer in the Walla Walla, Rogue, Columbia Valley and Umpqua regions continued.
Gary Andrus of Gypsy Dancer, who had completed harvest in early October in the North Willamette, discussed site variability. "On the backside of the Chehalem Mountains, where the vineyard is planted in meter-to-meter spacing, the fruit was abundant." Andrus chose to drop down to one cluster per shoot to harvest at just less than 2 tons/acre. At his site in the Red Hills of Dundee, only a few miles away, the need to thin was minimal. Andrus reported that the 2 inches of rain received in September had him nervous, and different vineyard management was indicated at each site. Ultimately, "We have wonderful fruit from our two vineyards--Brix and pH are good, and smaller berries with added intensity make this vintage really special."
Lemelson, whose vineyards are in the Carlton/Yamhill district, said, "The fact that we have six vineyard sites on different soils and at varying elevations was a major blessing this year, because while some vineyards suffered from early rain, others showed little impact."
Joe Dobbes, who produces wines under his own label, Wines by Joe, and for Paschal Winery in southern Oregon, sources fruit from the northern and southern ends of the state. He reported good quality and completed an early harvest. Dobbes found that tonnage levels across the state and between varieties this vintage were "all over the board.
"Elevation plays a factor, as has the rain," Dobbes says. Pests were an issue as well. "In some vineyards the yellow jackets got into it. That changed the way we went about fermentation."
Adam Campbell of Elk Cove manages some of the highest elevation sites in the state, resulting in an extended harvest. Young vines were harvested in mid-September at the tail-end of the rains, while, "Older vines have hung on really well, and higher elevation sites are looking really nice." Campbell expected to complete harvest in mid-October, which, he says, is good for his Riesling. He hoped the rains would continue to hold off.
Like Campbell in the north, Eric Weisinger of Weisinger's of Ashland, was still in the thick of harvest in mid-October. Most of his fruit is purchased from high elevation sites, which Weisinger has found resulted in a later harvest for this southern Oregon winery than for others in his area. He attributes moderately reduced yields at higher elevation sites to a cool snap at bloom. Birds have caused some additional crop loss, but overall, Weisinger says the reduction is not significant. What is critical is the quality. He is most excited about the Syrah, which he says is, "phenomenal--the best we've had in the last three years."
Southern Oregon's geography makes this region less prone to rain than the Willamette Valley to the north. Dr. Jones explained that the coastal mountains west of the Willamette Valley are not as high as the mountains that "tend to block the moisture that might be headed south." Jones found that while quality varied by geography and by varietal, overall he believes, "We are going to have good fruit and we are going to have good wines despite some challenges."
The generally warmer climate in southern Oregon, along with dramatic elevation changes in the region, allow both cool and warm climate grapes to grow successfully. Dobbes found that yield predictions for Bordeaux and Rhone varieties grown in southern Oregon have been largely on target, while Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and other Burgundian varieties from this region were below forecasted levels. Overall, "in southern Oregon the fruit is just gorgeous," Dobbes reports.
Further north in the Willamette Valley, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir quantities in some areas are down 20-50% this year, resulting from rain damage at bloom. Yet low yields do not indicate a loss of quality. Adam Campbell reports that yields are down, but "we have loose clusters and more concentrated flavors. This is a good year for us."
In the eastern parts of the state, Bordeaux and Rhone varietals are producing complex and balanced fruit. As in southern Oregon, Syrah and Cabernet are reported as standouts. Yet, In the Walla Walla Valley and parts of the Columbia Valley, harsh freezes (not atypical) cost some vineyards 75% of their potential crop this year. To protect against such losses in the future, Norm McKibben of Seven Hills Vineyard estimates that he has added $500/acre to the cost of farming by installing wind machines and burying canes from each vine. When asked how a vineyard owner balances risks against potential gain, McKibben chuckled, "I'm not sure it pays off," but all said and done, "It's worth it. You have to if you want to sell your grapes to a high-end winery."
by John F. Griggs
Manager, The Lake Erie Regional Grape
Research and Extension Center
After a very slow and difficult growing season in 2003, the grape industry along the south shore of Lake Erie was looking forward to a return to normality in 2004. Favorable weather conditions in the spring this year rewarded the growers with an early but break and a bloom period that was about a week ahead of normal and 14-16 days ahead of last year.
Bloom was very late in 2003, occurring around June 27. This was followed by a cold, wet and cloudy summer that prevented last year's large crop from ripening to industry standards. This year, bloom came near June 10, giving growers hope that their average-to-below-average crop would ripen sufficiently. The arrival of mid-June brought cooler temperatures and slower than average degree day accumulation until September. As a result, we lost the early advantage that we had in heat accumulation, and our veraison date came in around the normal date of Aug. 23.
We were then fortunate to see warm temperatures through September and into early October, resulting in a somewhat favorable harvest. Although the crop was a little slow to ripen, and some growers had to wait longer than they would have wished to begin harvesting, most growers were successfully able to deliver their crop.
The growing season in 2004 will definitely be remembered as a wet one. At The Lake Erie Regional Grape Research facility, we recorded 54.16 inches of rain from May 1 through October. (Hurricane Frances alone dumped up to 7 inches of rain in some areas on Sept. 8. This breaks down to more than 9 inches per month and 2 inches per week.
Heavy rains and long wetting periods increased pressure from all of the major grape diseases. As a result, growers had to be very attentive to their disease management practices. In vineyards that usually are fairly clean, downy mildew and black rot were in play for most of the season. Growers had to apply additional sprays and assure good coverage in order to keep these diseases in check. I observed several sites where downy mildew caused early defoliation, resulting in reduced sugar accumulation and perhaps a reduction in winter hardiness. Also, black rot showed up in some Concord vineyards, where it is usually not a problem. With heavy disease pressure and high inoculum levels, growers will have to be vigilant again next year to assure that these diseases do not reappear at such high levels.
Insect problems in the Lake Erie region this year turned out to be lighter than expected. There was, however, a late generation of grape berry moth that caused some significant damage to clusters in high-pressure vineyard blocks. Consequently, vineyard scouting and proper crop protection practices will be essential next year.
One of the largest challenges facing growers in the processing grape industry is the ongoing decline of grape prices. While winegrape prices in the area are holding steady, the prices for Concords and Niagaras in the juice and concentrate cash markets have been steadily declining. This is due in part to reformulation of concentrates and overproduction. Growers must now rethink some of their production strategies and find ways to save on costs.
The overall growing season and harvest for 2004 was by most accounts a successful one. Growers have rebounded somewhat from last year's disaster and are looking forward to next year's crop. Warm weather during early to mid-June was important for strong bud development, thereby increasing the potential for a good crop in 2005.
by Ed Hellman
Texas A & M University
The 2004 season brought above-average rainfall to all growing regions in Texas. This provided some welcome relief from a multi-year drought in parts of West Texas, but periodic rains persisted throughout the year, causing increased pressure from fungal diseases. Some yield reductions from powdery mildew and bunch rot were experienced in the region, but overall fruit quality was high.
The Texas Hill Country and North Texas regions also experienced higher rainfall and somewhat cooler temperatures, which led to a delay in harvest by as much as two weeks. Weather conditions during ripening were very good, and many vineyards reported excellent fruit quality.
Fruit demand and availability were fairly well balanced, although shortages of some varieties persisted in the state, particularly Chardonnay, Viognier, Muscat Blanc and Merlot. Prices remain strong for most varieties, reflecting expanded wine sales from existing wineries and numerous new wineries.
Texas is experiencing a period of unprecedented growth, with 14 new wineries opening their doors in 2004 and a similar number under construction for 2005. There are 83 wineries currently licensed in Texas. Many of the new wineries are located in the Texas Hill Country, a popular vacation and tourist destination close to San Antonio and Austin.
The Dallas-Fort Worth area is another region experiencing increased development of wineries. But new wineries sprouted up during 2004 in every corner of the state, including El Paso in far West Texas, Morse in the northern Texas Panhandle, San Diego in deep South Texas, and Pear Land in Southeast Texas. The trend to an expanded number of wine producers is projected to continue at a steady pace for at least the next several years. Most new wineries have planted estate vineyards, and independent vineyards have also expanded to meet the projected increased demand for winegrapes.
Emerging varieties in Texas include Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache, Viognier, Sangiovese and Tempranillo. Early performance results of these varieties in the hot Texas climate are very good, and vintners are excited about the wine quality. Several wineries are producing Rhone-style blends and varietal wines from Syrah, Viognier and Sangiovese.
by Patricia Peacock
Virginia's 2004 growing season followed a very wet 2003 season and autumn. The poor cold acclimation conditions of the fall may have contributed to isolated cases of winter injury, including bud damage and trunk splitting, seen in some northern Virginia vineyards in the spring.
The 2004 growing season started well, with no, or very limited, spring frost injury and above-average temperatures in April and May. While the balance of the summer saw very few above-average temperatures, the early onset of unusually warm weather led to a higher accumulation of season-long heat than average. An early veraison suggested that harvest might be advanced by 10 to 14 days.
Rainfall, at least in northern Virginia, was very close to station averages, until late-August and September, when the remnants of four separate hurricanes dropped up to 13 inches of rain on areas of the state. As dire as that sum sounds, different sections of the state received the rain at different times. For example, much of the Chardonnay and Viognier was harvested before the bulk of the rains occurred. For others, the rains made for a supreme struggle to get ripe fruit, especially for late-season varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Norton. Any chance of an advanced harvest for these varieties was cancelled by the September rains.
Pest pressure was typical during 2004, although downy mildew was somewhat more common or problematic in late season than in most years. Northern Virginia saw an emergence of 17-year periodical cicadas, which caused some minor shoot damage on mature vines.
The 2004 crop figures will not be available until the spring of 2005; however, estimates are between 4,500 and 5,000 tons, approximately the same as the 2002 season. Grape prices have remained stable, or increased slightly over 2003.
Four new wineries came on line since 2003, and two others closed. There are nearly 90 wineries in Virginia. Interest among new and potential winegrape producers remains high, and the outlook for further growth is positive. Governor Mark Warner, a vineyard owner himself, unveiled the VISION 2015 strategic plan for the Virginia wine industry (virginiawines.org/strategicplan04.html) in June 2004. The vision of this plan is to double Virginia's market share within the Commonwealth, and reach measurable sales on a national level by 2015 through increased marketing and educational initiatives. Several wine-related bills also passed in Virginia's 2004 General Assembly, one related to direct shipment of wine to Virginia residents, another repealing the existing Winegrowers Advisory Board while simultaneously creating a redefined Virginia Wine Board, the latter having broader powers of spending and revenue generation.
by Peter Mitham
Most Okanagan Valley wineries completed their harvests this year in the second week of October, having enjoyed a final run of good weather after a spate of cool, damp weather late in the season. While some vineyards experienced a greater incidence of mildew this year in consequence, the 2004 harvest was still on track to top last year's province-wide harvest of 16,898 tons, valued at just short of US$20 million.
The Okanagan Valley accounts for 16,516 tons of the provincial harvest and the majority of British Columbia's 97 licensed wineries. However, new regions such as Vancouver Island and the Fraser Valley, just outside Vancouver, continue to see growth. The Fraser Valley now has more than 100 acres of vines, while Victoria Estate Winery on southern Vancouver Island hired former Paso Robles, Calif., winemaker Ken Winchester and announced $2 million in new investment.
While Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island growers continue to enjoy greater success with white grapes than red, a number of Fraser Valley growers are trying their hands at reds such as Gamay Noir and Pinot Noir. Harvest occurred at the end of September in the Fraser Valley this year.
Though white varieties represent just over half of the grapes produced in the Okanagan, the most widely grown grape variety continues to be Merlot, while there is growing demand for Zweigelt grapes at Hainle Vineyards and other wineries.
Good heat units in the southern Okanagan during July rivaled those of 2003, raising hopes for this year's harvest of traditional Bordeaux varieties, and boding well for fruit from the 6-year-old Osoyoos Larose joint venture between Vincor International and France's Groupe Taillan.
The first vintage from the 60-acre Osoyoos Larose vineyard, made from the 2001 harvest, debuted in April 2004.
by Kevin W. Ker
Coordinator Continuing Education and Professional Development
Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI)
St. Catharines, Ontario
Across Ontario, it was a cold and snowy winter. In the far southwest an extreme cold snap in February resulted in significant injury to vinifera grapes and reduced production at many locales.
Of more interest were an incredibly wet and cool spring and summer. Precipitation levels were well above normal throughout the months of April, May and June, and cool overcast conditions with below seasonal temperatures continued into late August.
The wet, cool spring led to delayed bud break and bloom, and extended right through to veraison. We began the season about seven days behind the 10-year average. Bloom was about two weeks behind average, and veraison in many areas was a good two weeks behind average. Phenology research study is holding true for developmental requirements for the different regions in Ontario.
There was great concern that with the high precipitation patterns, disease problems were going to be high this year. The majority of growers recognized the season-long high pressure situation, and did a great job of maintaining good early and mid-season control. At veraison (when it finally arrived) we moved into a six-week period of beautiful weather that allowed many of our early and midseason cultivars to reach good maturity. However, our late season reds proved much more of challenge to hit the premium targets set before the season began.
Insect activity was erratic. Populations of our key direct pest--grape berry moth (GBM)--were lower than expected, and the use of predictive models and pheromone traps proved challenging to establish discrete activity periods. Mating disruption technology for GBM is available, but is slow to be taken up by the industry.
Leafhoppers (grape, potato and now the three-banded) continue to pose an increasing problem. A research trial using Surround, a kaolin clay product, appears to have provided good control, and is likely to gain registration in Canada for 2005.
Multicolored Asian lady beetle (MALB) continues to be a pest of concern. Populations were low during the early and mid-season harvest, with the first significant appearance taking place in the last weeks of harvest. Emergency registrations of a pyrethroid (Ripcord) and malathion were obtained for use in the 2004 season. Where applied, both products performed well. Exclusion netting is being evaluated for impact on vine growth and pest control (birds and MALB).
Grape disease control was generally pretty good, with growers starting early and maintaining good programs. Use of recycling sprayers continues to expand, but further work is needed to refine pesticide rates and recommendations to match the technology.
Harvest began two weeks behind average, mirroring the crop development. Harvest of grapes extended well into November for the first time on record. Crop levels appear to be about 20% higher than initially estimated by growers, and this led to some delays in processing at the wineries.
Prices remained static from 2003 to 2004. Base prices are negotiated collectively as per government regulations, and went to arbitration where the arbitrator ruled in favor of the processors for submitted prices for 2004. Supply potential is climbing significantly, with new plantings coming on stream and another 20 to 25% increase in total harvest possible within the next two to three years. Increasing supply is likely to lead to pressure to bring prices down further.
There were no major new plantings in the province; however, more small acreage plots are appearing in nontraditional production areas. Vine removal occurred mainly in those vineyards that had received serious damage from the freeze of 2003, where there was no potential for vine recovery.
One item of note is that the provincial government proposed a greenbelt area freeze that would restrict the zoning and development of agricultural lands. Restrictions on buildings and other items may negatively impact winery development within the proposed area. There are ongoing consultations trying to determine what is a viable agricultural unit. The farm community is concerned that the proposed land freeze does not take into account the economics of production and farm financial viability. As well, a move to nutrient management plans and the development of an area-wide irrigation plan for Niagara are being investigated by government agencies and policy personnel.
I am optimistic about next season. Vine recovery after the 2003 freeze has been excellent. Ample moisture and adequate temperatures have allowed vines to recover and generate good root growth and re-establishment of trunks. The cool, overcast conditions during bloom may lead to possible reduction in vine fruitfulness, but at this time wood quality is excellent, with more than enough buds to choose from. If all vineyards bear average crops, in 2005 production could be up 10 to 15% from 2004.
RELATED ARTICLE: Euroharvest Reports In February
Because complete data was not yet available from Europe, our yearly report on the 2004 harvest in major European winegrowing regions will be published in the February issue of Wines & Vines.
RELATED ARTICLE: WMC Launches Initiatives
Wine Market Council (WMC) began test marketing its new advertising campaign in Columbus, Ohio, in October 2004. The series of three print advertisements was expected to reach more than 70% of the adult Columbus audience through insertions in the Columbus Dispatch and Columbus Monthly magazine. A sample ad depicts a rollicking medieval feast with the tag line: "If wine made mutton taste better, imagine what it can do for microwave lasagna." WMC will base a subsequent $4-5 million national campaign on the success of the test.
The council's public relations efforts continue apace. In 2004, WMC worked with chef George Stella, host of The Food Network's "Low Carb and Lovin' It," providing tips and recipes for carb-conscious consumers, and continued with author/educator Karen MacNeil's "Real Wines for Reality TV" food/wine pairings.
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|Title Annotation:||HARVEST 2004: NORTH AMERICA|
|Publication:||Wines & Vines|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2005|
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