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Home Winemaking Seminar 2012, August

2012 Crop Update

Most of you in the room remember how spring weather broke in late winter and also how much hot weather we have had this summer. Right away one might tend to ask “Well how many GDD have we had, and how does that compare?” The answer – from the Geneva Exp Station: 

Ø As of August 7, 2012 from April 1, 2012 we have had 1889.8 GDD 

Ø The long term average for the same date is 1561.8 – placing 2012 – 17 days ahead of avg. 

Ø GDD on Aug. 7, 2011 – 1850.6 

Ø GDD on Aug. 7, 2010 – 1941.3 

Ø Because of the early start of the season one could extrapolate Aug. 7, 2012 from Mar.1, 2012 which is 2007.6 GDD 

Ø I can already hear the WOWS!  

But not so fast.  

There was an excellent statement regarding Growing Degree days in the August 8, 2012 Vineyard Update, from Cornell Cooperative Extension. …”Growing Degree Days, abbreviated as GDD isn’t any kind of a measure of the “quality” of a growing season but it does give us a way to compare heat accumulation between years, which can have some impact on maturity and pest development.”…  

Optimum growing conditions for a grape vine are ~ 85O F, with a good sub-terrainian environment, full sun, adequate soil moisture and atmospheric humidity.  

Øat ~75O F with the same conditions the vine’s photosynthetic ability is only 50% of that @ 85O F,

Ø below 70photosynthesis is negligible.  

ØAs the temperature increases above 85O F photosynthesis progressively decreases to nada at 95 because of high transpiration.

Ø Overcast conditions, drought, excessive moisture, and low humidity, especially, when coupled with moderate to high winds are all conditions which can adversely affect vine performance.  

Knowing this information makes it easier to understand why GDD don’t tell the whole story. Theoretically it would be most interesting to build a computer module that would take all the known factors into consideration – but you know it would be incredibly site dependent - a site a mile away could be significantly different, 20 miles away (as the crow flies) drastically different. Heck, a one acre site in the Finger Lakes could have two or three or more different soil conditions, which should kind of snap us back to reality.  





I will give you my perspective for the sites I am familiar with and the Finger Lakes in general – please be aware that there are drastic differences because of site, variety, spring freezes, steely beetle, precipitation and luck to name a few. I think I have seen more of a disparity in vineyards this year primarily due to varieties, a much earlier than normal bud break and the lack or presence of – steely beetle, spring frosts and precipitation, as a result the difference can range from almost no crop to bumper crops.  


The 2012 very early break in weather put the potential crop in jeopardy several ways. 

Ø Grape varieties subject to early bud swell did just that.  

Ø The day time temperature for the next several weeks languished in limbo and because growth was more or less marking time, more than a few sites were subjected to:  

o spring frosts, and  

o assaults from the steely beetle, which find swollen grape buds to be gourmet fare 

Ø Once the surviving buds break and shoots emerge, the shoots are much more sensitive to freezing and depending on site location many did freeze. 


By the time we had experienced the last spring freeze, the crop of some vineyards had been severely reduced or eliminated. Other blocks had been thinned ranging from lightly to pretty heavily. In spite of all this many vineyards emerged with virtually no damage, largely site related. 


Some of the varieties prone to later bud swell survived the spring onslaught unscathed. 


We finished pruning in late May, allowing us to adjust for damage and tying was completed shortly thereafter. Vines were suckered, and where needed shoots were adjusted and fruit thinned. The early part of the growing season was very good with adequate precipitation, good temperatures and reasonably low pest pressure. In spite of the spring problems many vineyards looked very good as bloom approached. After set it became apparent that many vineyards had set well and the crop potential looked promising.  


We experienced quite a long dry period extending from early June to the later part of July. Some of the vines were just beginning to show signs of moisture stress. Just before the last weekend in July we had a couple shots of gentle rain ¼” and ½” that nicely primed the surface to be receptive to more precipitation, which we got that last weekend for a total of 2 ½”. The vines responded nicely. 

At this point I am impressed on several counts with the vines and the crop potential in our vineyards: 

Ø Cane length is averaging 4 ½ to 6 ft with no hedging required 

Ø The leaves are healthy and well exposed. 

Ø The crop appears to be very clean and slightly above average in size. 

Ø A very high percentage of the clusters can see the sun thru a good portion of the day. 

Ø Lignification of the canes and veraision are ahead of normal, which at this point bode an earlier than normal harvest 


With warm days and cool nights and a little precipitation we could be on track for a vintage that would rival 2010. If that occurs, LH Vignoles and perhaps LH Riesling would be a consideration, if there is sufficient interest. 

By now most of you who have heard me give previous crop updates, know this is mere speculation because Mother Nature can be very fickle. Remember last year at this time things seemed so promising and then it started to rain and rain and rain. 

I brought a few of this year’s catalogs for those who are interested. We are taking orders now for grapes and juices. We have a full line of winemaking supplies that can be shipped, so shop online at or call.  

You will see some adjustment in harvest dates but we want you to know that we aren’t interested in early harvest dates to just get the grapes off the vines. We will in all cases try to optimize harvest for the highest quality product, even if it means letting them hang an extra week or two. On the flip side of that coin last year we decided to let a couple varieties hang another week and it poured for half the week and harvest ended up being a salvage operation. Wouldn’t it be nice if crystal balls existed. 

Quite a few of you know our operation is for sale and I know there is concern about long term grape and juice availability. Let me assure you no short cuts are or will be taken in managing our operation and the best message to a new potential owner is that the old customers will continue to support the facility. We plan to be at the helm until the right person comes along. 

Thanks for you attention and May Your Wines & Brews Fall Bright! 




May Your Wines Fall Bright!