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Finger Lakes Wines and Grapes: Adjusting to unpredictable spring temperatures

Time:2018-03-30 15:30wine - Red wine life health Click:

chris scholomiti cjs vineyards aurelius winery


Piles of pruned vines at CJS Vineyards & Aurelius Winery.


It’s officially spring. We hit it on March 20 and the weather was unseasonably cold. In central New York, you never know what Mother Nature is going to throw at you! We had some really warm weather at the end of February and the beginning of March, which allowed us to get a lot of pruning done in the vineyards. I thought this was really great, getting a jump on vineyard work for 2018 — then we had a Nor’easter every week. That put down lots of snow and prevented us from tying the pruned vines to the trellis wires. Well, the snow finally melted some, and we got the job done by March 21. Let’s hope for a nice, gradual warm-up through April into May, and the 2018 growing season can get underway. We don’t want too much heat and then a freeze — that wouldn’t be good for the buds.

The Cornell Finger Lakes Grape Program reports the testing on grapevine buds looks good. Grapevine bud tissue retains water during winter dormancy that makes them susceptible to freezing during subzero weather events. As of early March, common grape varieties grown in the Finger Lakes could sustain temperatures down to minus 8 degrees Fahrenheit before starting to see widespread bud mortality, so that’s excellent news since it hasn’t been that cold here. Right now, the buds are starting to de-acclimate: They sense spring arriving and slowly begin coming out of dormancy. In early May, we should see “bud break,” when the green leaves start pushing out from the bud and we have a better idea how the upcoming crop will develop.

I was planning on attending the BEVNY 2018 Conference for the Viticulture session on March 1 when one of those Nor’easters showed up, but fortunately today’s technology allowed members to attend online and the conference went on. Years ago it would have been a miss, so I’m glad we have modern methods to improve communication and learning! The program presented topics about grape growing for sparkling wines, cover crop under the trellis to minimize the use of herbicides and tilling, weed management in the vineyard, and improving vine health with pruning practices. The two other days covered winemaking practices and business developments for the grape and wine industry.

Lately, we’ve been doing maintenance in the winery and a bit of tractor repair, and soon we will be bottling some white wines from last year’s vintage. Also, we’ve done some research on new equipment for our bottling line, tested some new corks and arranged all of our oak barrels of wine for aging over the next few years.

I also recently attended a meeting about the Food Safety Modernization Act, a newer federal law impacting agriculture. The information session was presented by the state Department of Agriculture & Markets and the New York Farm Bureau in Auburn on March 22. They have been doing this presentation across New York state all month. We learned about the law and how it impacts farming, produce and food production.

Chris Scholomiti is co-owner and winemaker at CJS Vineyards & Aurelius Winery, located at 6900 Fosterville Road, Aurelius. Our tasting room reopens for the season April 7, with weekend hours of noon to 5 p.m. through December. Private tastings are also available by appointment. For more information, questions or comments about the column or wine and grape-growing in the Finger Lakes, email wine@cjsvineyards.com, call (315) 730-4619 or find the winery on Facebook.


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