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Old 14-07-2005, 05:49 PM
Garrison Hilliard
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Hot, dry weather very sweet for wine makers
Mix makes grapes burst with flavor so growers anticipate great vintage

The Associated Press

Cleveland Plain Dealer (Thomas Ondrey) via Associa

Wine makers in Ohio expect a great year from high heat and dry conditions this
summer. David Stanisa, foreman at Chalet Debonne Vineyards, irrigates grape
vines Thursday in Madison, Ohio.


CLEVELAND - Hot temperatures and dry weather have been good to Ohio grapes,
giving winemakers reason to celebrate.

"Right now, the indicators are saying great vintage," said Wes Gerlosky,
winemaker at Harpersfield Vineyard near Geneva. "Our vines are booming here.
They look better than I've seen them look in five years."

Dry, hot weather makes grapes smaller, but sweeter.

"The flavor should be substantially intensified this year," said Donniella
Winchell, executive director of the Ohio Wine Producers Association in Ashtabula

But there could be too much of a good thing.

The vineyards need a decent rain in the next week or so or next year's crops
could be threatened because of stressed vines, said Gene Sigel, vineyard manager
at Chalet Debonne Vineyards near Madison.

Sigel rented irrigation equipment and began dousing Debonne's 80 acres and his
own 30-acre South River Vineyards last week.

It is the first time since 1998 that he has had to water.

The state has 101 wineries, many known for Ohio's signature ice wine.

That wine is largely limited to northern climates and less than 1 percent of
Ohio's production.

It's made from grapes left on the vine until they freeze.

Of the nation's wine-producing states, Ohio ranks sixth, according to the Ohio
Division of Liquor Control.

Seven new wineries, on average, have opened each year since 2000.

"It's like an explosion," Winchell said.

Still, most of the grapes grown in Ohio - Concord and Niagara varieties - end up
as juice, not wine.

Imed Dami, a wine grape expert at the Ohio Agricultural Research & Development
Center in Wooster said many juice grape growers are switching to the more
lucrative wine version of the fruit.

Juice grapes typically sell for $300 a ton these days, he said. Pinot Gris, also
known as Pinot Grigio, goes for $1,500 a ton.

Part of Dami's job is to test wine grape varieties for their suitability to
Ohio's climates and soils.

Among white grapes, Riesling, Pinot Gris/Grigio and Chardonnay grow best here,
he said.

Chambourcin and Cabernet Franc do best among the reds.

The reds stand to benefit most from a sunny, dry summer and fall because they
like a warmer climate and a longer growing season, Winchell said. Reds are grown
mainly in southern Ohio.

The white grapes on Dami's list do well in a narrow strip along Lake Erie.

They are sensitive to cold, and the lake keeps them a little warmer in winter
because frigid air from Canada is warmed by the water, and hills along the lake
help block the cold air from the vines.

The wines they yield have begun winning awards at competitions around the
country, attracting attention to Ohio.