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Crop outlook 2005

Prepared by Tom Mitchell for the AWS Home Winemaking Seminar

13-Aug-05 - Good Morning! I’m glad to see so many faces. As with many farm reports we have some good news and some not-so-good news.

As of 25-July-2005 we were 9 growing degree-days ahead of the long-term average – disease pressure has been moderate with powdery mildew being the biggest problem; however, some growers have had problems with downy mildew.

May was very cool and very dry making it the coolest and driest May on record in the Finger Lakes. The heat turned on in June and we saw near normal rainfall. The precipitation and heat was a pretty normal for June but grape bloom was about a week behind schedule.

As June drew to a close July really cranked up the heat. July precipitation was widely variable in the Finger Lakes. Our location (central Keuka Lake) had little rainfall for the month. In early to mid July we aggressively controlled any escaped under-row weeds and chemically burned off the sod row centers to minimize competition – Vine growth in some blocks began to slow in late July just a bit earlier than we like to see. July, 2005 is one of if not the warmest July on record. In spite of May, Mother Nature thus far has dealt the conditions for pristine quality.

The biggest influence on the crop outlook for the 2005 vintage is the carry-over impact of the winters of early 2004 and early 2005, which had major consequences in terms of damage on the more tender hybrids and vinifera. Likely production of many of the most tender varieties will not return to normal until 2009 to 2010 as many vines were quite literally killed.

Wine growers are replanting the vacancies as fast as they can get vines. The most tender vinifera (Cab Sauvignon, Merlot, Gewurzt, Pinots and Muscat Ottonel) are going to be both scarce and pricey until the void is filled. Even the hardiest vinifera - Cab Franc, Riesling, and Chardonnay are in short supply (1/4 to ½ a crop) though they were not as severely devastated.

Most hybrids were negatively impacted to some degree. We are looking at below average crops for most hybrid. Of the white hybrids Aurore, Seyval and Vignoles appear to have near normal crops. Vidal, Cayuga and Traminette are down considerably below normal. Of the red hybrids Foch, Leon Millot, Rougeon and Chancellor are slightly below normal; NY73.0136.017 is down somewhat and Baco, deChaunac, and Chambourcin are down considerably below normal.

Native varieties for the most part are near normal, though some Niagara blocks are quite below average.

(As I am working on this update we have had a shower go through that may have given us a few hundredths of an inch).

We are projecting harvest dates to be very close to normal. Last year we couldn’t see the wisdom of prolonging the harvest so we scheduled harvest on a normal schedule.

This year we would rather not accelerate the harvest unless our field-testing tells us we must; instead, we will push the varieties to give maximum quality. For those of you interested, we have decided to tentatively schedule a vignoles late harvest - as most of you realize this is tenuous at best. It so very dependent on the weather.

To Summarize:

In most varieties the crop has been regulated by pre-existing conditions.

Thus far the growing conditions have been very good.

Pray for ideal weather and perhaps we’ll be gifted with a vintage to fondly remember.

Early harvest is underway! We are 28 growing degree days ahead of last year and 32 days ahead of long term average. Does that mean that we are picking a month early? NO, not really. But we are picking 1-2 weeks ahead of the dates in the catalog. We did not move dates ahead as drought conditions that we were experiencing this summer could actually have delayed ripening and we did not know which way the dates would fall. WELL, they are earlier than normal.

If you have ordered juice, there is no need for panic. If you ordered grapes, you will need to juggle your schedule to pick up early!

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