By Evan Dawson, Finger Lakes Correspondent
Last week, Dave Wiemann, the vineyard manager of Sheldrake Point Vineyard on Cayuga Lake, conducted a test to find out if the viciously cold temperatures had destroyed buds on his vines. He went to the coldest part of Sheldrake Point's 43 acres and cut ten canes of Riesling. He soaked the canes in water for 48 hours, then cut the buds. He was hoping to see green -- a sign that the buds were still alive and well. He feared he could see the deadly black that signals a victory for the weather.
The buds were green.
"Any damage so far is minimal," Dave said. "They've hung in there well. Riesling buds are acclimated to ten degrees below zero, and our vineyard saw a range of zero degrees to about five below."
The arctic air that swept New York state last week was just a shade warmer than many forecasters expected, which was just enough to protect most buds. "We saw just a bit more cloud cover than we figured to see," said meteorologist Stacey Pensgen of the ABC News affiliate in Rochester. "Those extra clouds offered just enough of a blanket to keep temperatures above zero most of the time."
Wiemann explained that his more sensitive vines -- Gewürztraminer, pinot noir, and other red varieties -- are located in the warmer, more protected spots in Sheldrake Point's vineyards. He didn't find it necessary to test them for damage.
Other wineries expect similar results across the Finger Lakes. Winemakers and growers on Seneca and Keuka Lakes say the bud damage is likely to be minimal, though the growers that haven't tested the buds won't know for sure until the weather warms up.
"It could have been worse," Wiemann said. "We're very pleased with what we're seeing in the vineyard right now."