Less snow means more worry for Leelanau vintners

KAscott_20110319_7054_Etm2abThe Leelanau Enterprise reports that in addition to making it a rough winter for those who depend on snow for winter sports, the lack of snow this winter is proving troubling for wine grape growers. They talked with Charlie Edson:

Edson, of Bel Lago Vineyards & Winery north of Cedar, has more than 100 grape varietals planted on 32 acres in Centerville Township that are susceptible to freezing without snow cover.

“I don’t know how hardy the vines are. I’m guessing not as hardy as we would like,” he said.
As of Wednesday, 43 inches of snow had been recorded at the Road Commission garage in Suttons Bay, about half the 85 inches from a year ago at the same point of winter. Adding insult to injury is that any snow that has come has melted away due to unseasonably warm temperatures. On Friday, the mercury broke 50 degrees at the Enterprise weather station in Lake Leelanau. A high of 60 was recorded in the past week at the Road Commission garage in Maple City.

Those readings are a concern for grape growers throughout the region.

“It’s a problem for us,” said Erwin “Duke” Elsner, Michigan State University small fruit production & viticulture specialist based in Traverse City. “Snow is a primary source of insulation providing up to 10 degrees of protection. If it gets down to minus 5, the temperature around the vine can be 5 above.”

While lack of snow is also a concern for local small fruit trees, it is less concerning than for grapevines. Elsner explained that tree trunks comprised of sturdy tissue can survive lower temperatures.

Read on for more!

Photo credit: Vineyard … on the Eve of Spring by Ken Scott

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