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Grape growers feeling impact of last winter


For most, the bitter cold and snow of last winter provide bad memories. Area grape growers, however, are living with daily reminders of the effects of winter.

Grape growers knew there was a serious problem as soon as the season for buds on the vines started in the spring. There weren't anywhere near as many as there should have been and whole vines were dead.

Michael Jordan owns Olde Chautauqua Farms and is a partner in 21 Brix Winery in Portland in Chautauqua County's winery belt. It hasn't been a good year for perhaps the largest vineyard complex and that will show up some time late next year in much less of many kinds of wine for store shelves.

Jordan says it's because of the different ways types of grape were hit by the winter.

"The native varieties were a very good crop. The native varieties being Concord, Niagara, Delaware, Catawbas," Jordan explained.

"The vinifera varieties, an example, chardonnay, riesling, cabernet, about a tenth of a crop, this year. And, the so-called hybrid varieties are kind of a mixed bag, some have no grapes and some have a normal crop."

That means the sweet wines which have long been the mainstay of wineries did pretty well as did the vines which produce grapes for Welch's.

Jordan says as soon as his crop insurance allows, 15 acres will come out completely to be replaced and many vines on between 35 and 40-acres will be replaced. The new vines won't produce for years.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.