Sunday, July 16, 2017

Vineyards Wiped out

Vineyards lose ’17 crop

Jake Putnam

This block of chardenay vines at Bitner Vineyards was planted 36 seasons ago. But a closer look reveals no grapes on the vine.  

“This winter, I have a weather station, It was -18 degrees below zero, the first 10 days of January. It killed the plants to the snow line. Luckily, our temperatures 24 inches down never got below 40 degrees.

While the vines are thin, they’re alive, green and thriving again. But to save the vineyards grower took drastic measures:

The hard part for farmers this year is that my vines are this big around and I cut the old vines out but it literally cost more to take out an old vineyard than starting from scratch. Im glad that most of the old vines have survived. Right now we’re training it up to the catch wire and there are some fruit spurs for next year and hopefully we will be back to a 2-3 ton crop, maybe one ton next year and 2-3 the next.

The damage was centered in the Sunnyslope region south of Caldwell. Where the majority of Idaho’s vineyards and wineries are located, and its will have a major impact on the state’s total wine-grape tonnage this year.

 Even though it killed everything above, we’re retaining the original suckers back up. The vines will continue as the same vines I planted back in 1981.

The biggest vineyard lost 480 acres of wine grapes after the cold snap in January. Bitner says the 2017 vintage is going to be light:

Most of the red grapes are in the barrel, even for the other guys. But the ’17 vintage is really going to be light, for them they’ll have to go up and get another source of grapes. Fortunately I don't have to.

Bitner has reserves that he’ll market this year:

Ive kept a lot more red grapes in the barrel, so we’re releasing our 2012 vintage. So I still have my 13, 14 a light 15 and 16, so 17 and Im out. We’re okay we sell most of our wine on our deck, we’ll stay in our 1500 to 2000 case range and sell to a few restaurants in the valley.

The 2016 wine-grape harvest was a bumper crop—and growers hope their reserves will get them through the disastrous winter.

For the Voice of Idaho Agriculture Im Jake Putnam

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