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Crop Outlook and Forecast 2004
presented at the AWS Home Winemaking Seminar, Rochester, NY
August 2004

 

Surely by now everyone is somewhat aware of the winter damage that occurred last winter in the Finger Lakes. Before we get into this year, let’s review the growing conditions in 2002, the winter of 2002-2003, the growing season of 2003, the winter of 2003-2004 and then the current growing season and what we can expect for this fall.

 

The 2002 growing season was hot and dry and most vinifera were carrying above normal crops. The combination of hot dry weather and relatively large-crop stressed vines, which in turn retarded growth, further exacerbating the already bad situation. Yield or crop level is the tons per acre. Crop load is a ratio of pounds of fruit to pounds of pruning weight. A crop load of 1 would be 1 lb of fruit to 1 lb of pruned canes, 10 would be 10 lb of fruit to 1 lb of cane prunings and so on. The highest quality fruit would be on vines that were pruned retaining no more than 4 viable buds per ft. of row and having a crop load in the area of 7. Unfortunately, because of the unfavorable growing conditions some vines had crop loads well in excess of 15. Vines that had heavy crop loads failed to fully mature the crop or the woody portions of the vines. Had the growing season been normal, with adequate moisture and normal growing conditions, the crop load may have been near normal in the 9-11 range and the crop and wood would have matured enabling a greater level of cold hardiness.

 

The winter of 2002-2003 was brutal – not any record lows but just day after day of bitter cold. Some spots recorded temperatures lower than –10o F and there was significant cold damage to the more tender varieties including most vinifera. Gewurztraminer and Muscat Ottonel were essentially killed to the ground in my vineyards where most other vinifera were significantly damaged. Chardonnay was really clobbered and we’ve always regarded Chardonnay as one of the hardier vinifera. There was very notable damage to most vinifera in the Geneva Agricultural Experiment Stations vineyards with two varieties (Auxerois and Gamay Noir) showing minimal damage. Damage was considerably lower in the best areas on Seneca Lake.

 

The growing season in 2003 was not one of the better ones, as it was relatively cooler and much wetter than normal. The vines responded with abundant growth creating fuller canopies, which made disease control difficult in many vineyards. A comment on the wines produced from the 2003 vintage: in many cases the wines were below average but some outstanding Rieslings resulted from that difficult vintage. In general the reds were thinner, and lighter in color. Chardonnays and similar varieties were less complex and were difficult to work with. Riesling types and the fruitier hybrids had some acid and pH problems but were crafted into some very nice wines. It was a year that challenged the winemaker. Kudos to those of you who made nice wines from the fruits of such a difficult year.

 

The winter of 2003-2004 was not as continuously brutal as the previous winter but we received a major surprise when a back-door cold front blew in from the northeast on 8th of January. I know of no one who has not experienced a similar event in this area. The favored areas in terms of very good to excellent sites on Seneca and Cayuga lakes were blasted with temperatures near –180 F. Some of the vineyards have suffered >85% vine mortality. The large lakes Cayuga and Seneca seemed to moderate the temperatures as the air moved across the lakes, as the temperatures were somewhat moderated on the west sides at the southern ends of the lakes. On Keuka at our site we recorded –80F on the 8th of Jan 2004 and –90F on the 9th of Jan 2004. About 7 miles north of us on Keuka –160F was recorded on both days and damage was more extensive in similar varieties.

 

Our damage was plenty severe as Gewürztraminer killed back to the ground the second year in a row and we lost many Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Gamay Beaujolais, Carmine and Cabernet Sauvignon vines. Vinifera vines have continued to collapse this summer. Riesling, one of the hardier vinifera will have less than 50% of a normal crop in 2004. Cabernet Franc’s survival from the cold this winter was all over the board, from severe to not too bad. Hybrids and native varieties were affected relative to the varietals’ cold hardiness and fruitfulness of secondary and tertiary buds.

 

It has been difficult to be optimistic about the crop outlook this year.

  • The overall crop is diminished
  • The crop on some vinifera is non-existent for the second year in a row.
  • Every time we turn around we are faced with more rain, clouds and cool temperatures.

Nonetheless, there are good-sized vines with less crop so a turn for the better, weather-wise, could be significant.

 

NY73.136.17 – Information, a Bit of History, How it Fared Last Winter and a

Wine trial and Tasting of some of Those Trials

NY73.136.17 is a hybrid cross of (NY33277 X Chancellor) X Steuben.

Curiosity got the better of me, so, I decided to find some information on NY33277 an F2 parent of NY73.136.17 because I noticed NY33277 and Chancellor were the F1 parents of an un-named white hybrid NY65.0467.01. I looked high and low and could find no information on NY33277 – when in doubt contact an expert, so I e-mailed Bruce Reisch, the grape breeder at the Geneva Agricultural Experiment station, and put the question to him and here was the reply…

 

INSERTED reply from Bruce Reisch:

Hi Tom,

Thanks for your question; I've wondered about NY33277 a bit myself. I believe it was discarded from the breeding program well before I came on board in 1980. So I did a bit of checking and here is what I found out:

 

 

NY33277 parentage - Seibel 6339 x NY10589

NY10589 = Golden Chasselas x Ripley

Ripley = Winchell x Diamond

Seibel 6339 has complex vinifera and american species ancestry

 

Wine of 33277 was first tested in 1953. In a letter from Chateau Gai (Ontario Canada?) it was rated as "Excellent".

The 1960 sample was "spoiled" according to Willard Robinson's notes. It was then tested for wine quality 1962 to 1972. Wine was generally well rated with comments such as "fine body, good balance, good flavor and color, non-foxy nose, some astringency" and "herbaceous" in later years as the standards were raised. I found a note from Phil Wagner, Sept. 29, 1966: "Non-foxy nose, good flavor, clean and round with hint of tannin. The best of reds tasted."

 

In a 1972 note, John Einset wrote about the vineyard characteristics:

"Very poor vines, severe winter injury, poor fruit condition sometimes."

 

Disease resistance in the early days of the wine-breeding program was not the highest priority. It seems to me that NY33277 was used as a wine quality parent with some level of adaptation that was better than vinifera. With the 1972 note from John Einset, it's pretty certain that NY33277 was not chosen as a parent for viticultural traits or cold hardiness.

 

It's hard to guess what the breeders had in mind when each cross was made, but we can get a pretty good indication from the notes they left behind.

 

Hope this helps you fill out some background for your talk.

 

Best regards,

Bruce Reisch

 

…So now you know.

 

NY 73.136.17 is described as vigorous and moderately resistant to powdery mildew. The red wine has full body with black pepper character and moderate tannin content. Wine panel ranking

1985 – #2 of a 100, 1989- #8 of 40, 1990 - #1 of 32, 1991 – #1 of 24, 1992 - #2 of 17, 1993 - #1 of 18

 

The variety has been under test for several years. Cornell decided to release the variety for propagation so that wine could be made and be commercially available prior to naming the variety, which is scheduled to occur in 2006.

 

Last winter in spite of the havoc created by the previously mentioned events we measured only a 17% primary bud kill –(anything up to 20% is considered normal) so we have some good news! It was noticed that the variety, on it’s own roots, was vigorous for the first few years and then started to decline indicating a possible susceptibility to phyloxera. The current recommendations are to graft the vine.

 

The Trial

2003 was the first crop from a 4 yr old planting of NY 73013617. We wanted to assess the quality of the wine and thought we saw an opportunity to do a trial with potassium bicarbonate that might be of interest to the amateur winemaker. The wine quality is probably lower than had it been a better vintage but then we may not have seen the potential in a less than ideal year and we probably wouldn’t have needed to adjust acidity.

 

What we hoped to learn from this trial were:

  1. The affects of potassium bicarbonate on a wine sample – notably appearance, aroma, color, taste, mouth-feel, body etc.
  2. The importance of testing prior to treatment
  3. The usefulness of blending to correct an over-adjustment.

 

We started with enough fruit to make forty gallons.

Initial readings were pH 3.26, TA .915, Brix 19.4.

  • Brix was adjusted to 220 .
  • Fermented to dryness with a 50:50 blend of toasted and plain oak chips @ a rate of 4 oz. Per 5 gal.
  • Inoculated w/ Chris Hansen ML culture.
  • PH and TA tested and 30ppm SO2 added after fermentations but prior to treatment with potassium bicarbonate and cold stabilization. PH 3.30; TA .886; Brix –1.4
  • Treated 4 – 5 gal lots with potassium bicarbonate
    • 1 lot @ 3.4 gm pot bicarb per gal
    • 1 lot @ 6.8 gm pot bicarb per gal
    • 1 lot @ 10.2 gm pot bicarb per gal
    • 1 lot @ 13.6 gm pot bicarb per gal
  • Cold stabilized all treatments
  • Tested pH and TA of all lots after cold stabilization pH TA

Shift

#1 control - no adjustmentpH 3.5 TA .831

#2 3.4 gm/gal pH 3.55 TA .764 .05 .067

#3 6.8 gm/gal pH 4.05 TA .574 .55 .257

#4 10.2 gm/gal pH 4.35 TA .518 .85 .313

#5 13.6 gm/gal pH 4.65 TA .436 1.15 .395

In our opinions treatment #4 and # 5 were excessive and seriously degraded the wines emphasizing the importance of testing before treating. We did an additional treatment to see if it were possible to salvage any of the excessively treated wine and the result of that blending is #6 with a pH of 3.65 and a TA of .654

 

We bottled 1 gal of each treatment #1 thru #6. I would like you to taste #1(the control), # 3 @ 6.8 gm/gal, #5 @ 13.6 gm/gal, and #6 the blend. In order to expedite the time we will leave # 2 and # 4 for you to taste at the break or at noon if you are interested.

 

The final blend #6 was made using:

  • 18 gal untreated #1
  • 4 gal #2
  • 4 gal #3
  • 4 gal #4

 

#5 was discarded as it adversely affected the blend of the other components.

 

When tasting, bottling and blending we felt #2 was an improvement, #3 was a quite nice improvement over the untreated; #4 was bad and #5 was horrible and # 6 the blend was quite nice with perhaps a bit more complexity than #3. It will be interesting to taste these after a few weeks in the bottle.

 

We are going to conduct additional trials of the blend with different oak additives. I hope this gave you a reasonably good preview of the possibilities of NY73.136.17. I personally look forward to a good vintage when we can really see what the variety is capable of producing.

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