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Crop Update 2014 by Tom Mitchell, Pa’tridge Run Farms and Fall Bright, Finger Lakes Wine Region, overlooking Keuka Lake east, near Wayne, 10110 Hyatt Hill, Dundee, NY 14837    607-292-3995

August 9, 2014


There are things that kind of stick in your mind –like Hurricane Agnes in 1972 11” of rain in 12 hours – I helped my father in law, who lived in Corning, NY at the time, clean-up in the aftermath.  The water had been 4’ high on the second story.   


Before the storm hit a neighbor who was new to farming had trenched several hundred feet, in which to install tile, over the course of 3 or 4 days.  At the end of the first day I had stopped by and introduced myself and explained to him that it was a good practice to leave enough time at the end of each day to lay the tile and cover it.  In all fairness I was 28 but looked like I was 18 or 19.  Well he looked at me like I was out of my mind and said that wasn’t the most efficient way to do it.  I shrugged and said OK.  The trench was still open and the tile was lying in the bottom when Agnes hit.   She carved the 2’ wide trench much wider and up to 9’ deep in spots and deposited the tile into a twisted mess amongst a huge 8’ pile of earth and debris.   Nothing has ever been mentioned about the incidence.  


We used to have snow – lots of it and brutal cold.  In the mid 70’s the snow had drifted over the tops of parts of the rows in several vineyards.  Well, winter is when you prune the vines – we would work-out the rows in snow until we were upper thigh high deep, flounder back out from wench we came and start another row. It was early May before we could see the ground and we still had about 25% of the vineyard left to prune.  


Mother Nature has a way of getting your attention. On Christmas Eve of 1980 we were in shirtsleeve weather.  We awoke to 11 degrees below zero.  85-90% of concord primary buds were killed – the 1981 crop was rather small. 


In 1991 we had what we called a California summer and I was working at the Taylor wine company. We had a 60-acre block of grafted Seyval Blanc. 

For a few years we had been doing some mechanical pruning and the year before we were experimenting with mechanical thinning.  To make a long story short, we had mechanically pruned and thinned the entire block.  Over 1000 tons of grapes were harvested from that block that were just over 17 brix, very remarkable at 17 ton per acre and it didn’t appear to have damaged the vines, as the following year we harvested a very desirable 6.5-ton per acre.  


I could go on and on.  But there are a few things I will likely remember about this year.   

·        Early in the year, a vineyard in a very desirable location, reported a very high primary mortality in Riesling and not quite as bad in Chardonnay.   

·        It appears that the Riesling production is way down. 

·        Gewurztraminer had better primary survival than either Riesling or Chardonnay and there appears to be a very nice crop. 

·        Indications are Pinot Noir has a very nicely balanced crop but the clusters are very tight. 

·        Most of the French/American & American hybrids have very good crops though Cayuga production appears to be down. 

·        Most native varieties appear to have another very good yield potential following a large crop last year. 

·        This has been one of those years when you ask, “You mean it isn’t raining today?” On my farm the months of June and July have netted over 16” of precipitation with 9.8” for the month of July.  Late in May we received 5.5” in a single day and we received another 5” on the 28th of July.  It’s been a long time since I’ve seen that much in a rain gauge.  

·        On August 5th heavy hail seriously damaged some Finger Lake vineyards, fortunately missing our operation 

·        Disease pressure has been high especially downy mildew.  If your vineyard is clean it means your tail is weary from all the spraying.  Our vineyard is clean. 

·        In mid-June we were 3 GDD ahead of normal, as of the 8th of August we are 0 GDD from normal, following a much cooler than normal July. 

·        We have a good-looking 7-day forecast.  Let’s hope it continues until the end of harvest. 

·        The next challenge facing growers will be Botrytis prevention especially if we have much more precipitation.  The bunches in many varieties are already very tight, any further berry expansion may push berries off the peduncle or rupture berries which means you best have protection in place.  Quoting Alice Wise in her article Botrytis Management Options, in the Finger Lakes Vineyard update - “A botrycide at veraison is the single most effective timing in humid climates such as eastern north America.”   


Assuming you have a clean crop and that you can keep it healthy, the weather from here out will determine quantity and quality.  Warm, dry days, low humidity and cool nights for the next 12 weeks would be perfect.   


If you pray, please request the above and we’ll see how close to perfect we come. 





May Your Wines Fall Bright!