Much of grape crop 'basically toast' due to cold January
Winemakers in Essex County say they've likely lost much of their grape crop this year due to extremely cold weather in January.
The polar vortex two weeks ago was too much for the grape vines to handle and the more sensitive grapes likely didn't survive.
"It depends on the variety," said Karl Lonsbery, the winemaker at Mastronardi Estate wines. "Merlots, Syrah, your warmer climate varieties, are basically going to be toast because of their track record with cold weather."
Lonsbery won't have a final tally until March but said it looks like about half the buds won't produce grapes this year.
"Hopefully, our baco vidals, our hybrids, will be able to withstand this temperature more so," he said. "So we still have hope there. But for the most part, with this temperature, for what we've had, it's not looking too good at this point."
The season is shaping up to be in stark contrast to last year's bumper crop.
"They're stressed already from how big the crop was," Lonsbery said. "So being stressed from a huge crop going into a winter like this is a combination for a perfect storm."
Rori McCaw, a winemaker at Coopers Hawk Vineyards, says there's "quite a bit" of damage.
"Grapes are a tender fruit ... susceptible to frost," McCaw said.
She said the vines aren't dead, just the buds.
Viticulturists with Brock University have been out across the wine regions in province, surveying the damage, including Coopers Hawk Vineyards.
"They've determined for example that only 14 per cent survival rate on merlot which is probably our most sensitive variety," McCaw said.
If the grape vines don't produce fruit, the wineries will buy grapes from other areas in the province and produce the varieties from that stock.
The crops are also covered by crop insurance.
"This is Mother Nature's way of saying, 'here, I gave you this because ... in 2015 we're going to make it all up to you,'" McCaw said.