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NE Ohio wineries lose millions as subzero weather damages grape crop

on 09/01/14 at 2:18 pm


AR-140109432.jpg&maxh=400&maxw=667Northeast Ohio grape growers are reeling today from what is conservatively considered a multimillion-dollar loss of their 2014 wine crop because of the record-low temperatures.
“It’s at least a $3 million loss of vinifera grapes,” said Doniella Winchell. executive director of the Ohio Wine Producers Association. “More than 90 percent of the buds among the Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs and Pinot Gris were killed.”
And if it turns out that the vines themselves were killed in the freeze, that loss would multiply dramatically and affect the local grape harvest for years to come.
Tony Debevc, fourth-generation grape grower at Debonne Vineyards in Madison, said it was Monday’s 25 mph winds that rendered his wind machines useless in protecting his grapevines.
“When we get frigid weather on a still night, we can use the machines to invert the warm air in the inversion layer and raise temperatures 5 to 7 degrees. But this wind thoroughly mixed it up and made it impossible to do anything.”
In 1994, when temperatures remained below zero for the first two weeks of January, Debevc said he lost 20 percent of everything he had planted.
“We lost all our Chardonnay vines and about two-thirds of our Riesling,” he said. “We had to replant, and it took three years for them to produce. But then we only had seven acres of vinifera. Now we have 65 acres.”
Winchell said she remembers walking through vineyards after the January 1994 freeze.
“It was like walking through Rice Krispies,” she said. “You could hear them snap, crackle and pop. That was the cell structure of the vines exploding.”