Thursday, February 25, 2010

Are we out of the woods yet? By David Bova

As General Manager of Millbrook Winery I get to worry and lose sleep about everything that goes on here - things I can control and things I can't.

One might think that my number one worry would be the recession and its effect on our business. This has yet to be a big worry as we are very fortunate to have dedicated customers who love serving local Hudson Valley wines at their dinner table. In fact, we actually were able to grow our case sales in 2009 as local and NY Metro customers really have been supporting our products - to those people I say thanks....

No, my biggest worry this time of year is the temperature outside - something I can't control. You see we grow 30 acres of vinifera grapes. Vitis vinifera - or European varieties - include our Chardonnay, Tocai Friulano, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Franc. While most agree "vinifera" grapes make the best wines of the world, they are also very sensitive to the cold winters and, if it gets too cold, our grape harvest could be wiped out for a season, or worst case - the plants could die altogether. When I watch the weather forecast each night during the months of December through February, I don't focus on how much snow, or the high temperature of the next day - I focus on the low temperature.

Through our 30 year experience growing vinifera in the Hudson Valley, we know that when the temperature drops below 0F our plants don't like it. Depending on the absolute temperature and duration of the absolute temperatures before a -0F event, this will determine if we lose buds (where the fruit resides) to winter damage. Losing buds means losing fruit in the upcoming harvest. Losing fruit means losing money - which is never good. After years of experiments with vinifera varieties in our vineyard - the four we grow are what we consider the most winter tough varieties for our Hudson Valley climate.

I think we are probably out of the woods for temperatures below 0F - so maybe I can go back to my normal full night sleep - please keep your fingers crossed!

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