Vineyards Devastated by Severe Winter

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By Robert K. Stephen (CSW)

(HARROW, ON) – After visiting several Lake Erie North Shore wineries recently the extent of the devastation caused to the vines by the nasty winter was readily apparent. Although the picture here was taken at Muscedere Vineyards it was very typical of the situation at the other vineyards visited.

But what was surprising was the stoic attitude of the vineyard owners all of whom just took it in stride as one of the downsides of growing grapes. You are a farmer. You can have good years but rest assured every once and awhile you’ll have a bad year. The winter of 2013-14 was a bad year.

My visit started at Viewpointe Winery where I heard, “God Giveth and God taketh away.” This was delivered manner of factly and without bitterness or anger. Boy what a lunch of fried perch with homemade tarragon dipping sauce. And the view from the patio of Lake Erie absolutely stunning.

Bernie Gorski of Colchester Ridge Estate Winery said there would be no crop this year and 30% of his Cabernet Sauvignon vines were destroyed. However, he added, the crop was great last year and they had great inventory to get them though this disaster. Hopefully a hot summer in 2015 can result in a replication of CREW’s stunningly delicious 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Muscedere vineyard was not atypical of the vines in Lake Erie North Shore. Photo by Robert Stephen.

The Muscedere vineyard was not atypical of the vines in Lake Erie North Shore. Photo by Robert Stephen.

Tom O’Brien of Cooper’s Hawk vineyard also said there would be no crop this year. Luckily for Tom he lost few vines. Just about all his vines survived but the buds are partially dead. He added it is best just to avoid touching the vines to avoid stressing out the plants.

The story of extensive bud damage was repeated at Colio Estates but they will have some crop augmented by grape purchases from Niagara. Interesting the freezing was so bad it became a very good year for ice wine and late harvest wines for Colio.

At Pelee Island Winery there seemed to be some hope of a limited crop this year.

At Sprucewood Shores perhaps winemaker Tanya Mitchell summarized the situation in a flippant fashion by stating she was looking forward to a summer vacation this year. Stephen Mitchell stated that the younger vines took less damage and the vitis vinifera grapes were hardest hit.

Between visits to wineries I stayed at Caesar’s in Windsor. Grape growing is a bit like gambling. I suppose what we can do this year is to just buy more Lake Erie North Shore wines to help out the local economy. Given the quality of wines produced this should not be a sacrifice.

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About the Author

Robert Stephen (CSW)
Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he loves The Square. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write."Email Robert Stephen
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