Federal government to assess local wine grape losses

CLEVELAND - On July 9, representatives from the United States Department of Agriculture will tour local wineries to assess the damage done to local wine grapes by this past winter's extreme weather.

All Northeastern Ohio Wineries from Avon east to the Pennsylvania line suffered deep losses to the wine grape crop. "There was a 100-percent crop loss for 2014 for all vinifera wine varieties." says Doniella Winchell, Executive Director of the Ohio Wine Producers Association.

Vinifera grapes are those European varieties like Riesling, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, the grapes that make the best wines. Four separate episodes of sub-zero temperatures this past winter destroyed the fruiting buds across hundreds of acres of local vines.

The Federal Government will visit several different wineries in the Grand River Valley, east of Cleveland in Lake and Ashtabula Counties, part of the Lake Erie Appellation (Growing Region). Their job is to determine how many vines are dead and how many can be saved.

"We are seeing some growth in the vines." says Winchell. Indeed a few shoots, known as suckers, are growing at the base of many of the vines. "There is some green in the vineyards." she says, "But we don't know if these suckers will support a crop in the future."

It will take two to three years for the vines to begin bearing fruit again. That's a long time. But, the news isn't all bad. The 2012 growing season was one of the best ever for Northern Ohio grapes. The wines out now are from these exceptional grapes and are getting raves reviews across the country. Also, 2013 yielded the largest crop her in Northern Ohio in the last 10 years. So, there is lots of grape juice in the tanks ready to be converted into wine.

The good news is we've got enough juice to get us into 2015 with no problem," added Winchell. To bridge the gap between now and the next local harvest, most likely in the fall of 2016, local wine makers can buy wine juice from other regions of the country.

"There is and will be plenty of great wine for local wine lovers for many months to come." she declared.