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July 09, 2009

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The picture shows a Japanese Beetle problem, not mildew. No doubt there are some mildew problems out there -- if it's raining almost every day and you can't get in the vineyard to spray, then the disease and insect problems can quickly manifest themselves and get ahead of you.

It looks to me like the weather pattern will change for the better after July 17 or 19 and growers will get some welcome "growing degree days" to help with the sugars and flavors -- I think it is much too early to start writing off the 2009 vintage.

John,

The writer (me) erred in implying the photo showed mildew damage, which of course it doesn't. It's just a poorly constructed sentence.

Certainly no one is "writing off" the 2009 vintage, but I've heard from well over a dozen growers that the cold, rainy year so far has already made the challenge even steeper.

YIKES, get that photo off it making me angry!

The odd thing is that Japanese beetles hide when it rains. They appeared a few days late this year--instead of July 1 (which is like clockwork for them) they came around on July 3 or 4, after the rains finally stopped.

If we do keep up with the recent sunny pattern in the Flakes, the beetles will be a problem on top of the already mildew that has set in. Certainly a challenging vintage already--not to mention that temperatures are decidedly lower than summer-like.

Some years are great--soem years suck!

Thomas -

But to John Sperr's point, we obviously shouldn't write off 2009 yet. What, from your experience, would need to happen from now through harvest to make 2009 "average?" How about spectacular?

Evan,

In our region it's all about growing degree days. We need a lot of sunshine, and some temps that can bring up the degree day stats.

But then, that's merely a generality. These are the kinds of years that make mesoclimates and microclimates show their stuff--one way or the other.

They are also the kinds of years that often prove the value of growing the consistent Queen Riesling, who I've witnessed produce stellar wines after not being able to break the 17 brix ceiling in some vintages.

I stopped growing grapes years ago, but I still grow fruit trees and bushes. So far this year, I've lost about 80% of my cherries, 50% of the strawberries, the plum and pear trees are sparsely populated and the need for copper to keep mildews at bay has been oppressive. And, those damned Japanese beetles are back in full force...I spend about 1 1/2 hours each day walking the property, knocking beetles into a jar of soapy water; especially like getting them in fornication mode ;)


Evan,

I should say one more thing. This region has been experiencing extended, warm and sunny autumns for the past few years--often makes up for a lot.

While the 2009 season has thrown us what has felt like less than summer-like conditions so far in the Finger Lakes, there is still ample time for things to turn around and make it a good (great?) year for quality. What we need is for the rain to stop for a while, and Mother Nature to turn up the heat a little bit.

If you look at the rainfall and growing degree data from Geneva in 2007, we see two things that made that year an excellent one for grape growing:

1) Dry - We had below average rainfall every month from May to September. This did a couple of things: a) Kept diseases from getting and strong foothold early in the season, causing fewer problems later on, and b) helped to produce smaller berries, which is probably part of the reason that it was such a good year for reds.

2) Warm September and October - Up until then, our GDD accumulation was just above average. During this critical ripening time, we had significantly warmer temps than normal, lots of sunshine, and a shower now and then - just enough it seemed so the vines didn't get stressed.

So far in 2009, April and May weren't too bad for us. June has been the bugger so far, with less heat and more rain than average (surprise!). More rainfall usually means more shoot growth, especially when combined with hotter temperatures, so that makes canopy management much more challenging, and critical, both for disease control purposes and fruit development. Given the choice, I'd would opt for cool and dry conditions right now over warm and wet. But then that's the rub...we don't get a choice.

If the pattern can change starting in the next month or so, it can still turn out to be another very good year for the Finger Lakes.

As a viticulture professor of mine told me once, "Anybody can grow grapes in California. You really have to know what you're doing in places like New York."

Hans Walter-Peterson
Finger Lakes Grape Program

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