Wineries finally starting to recover in southern Ontario

After two years of major crop loss at wineries in southern Ontario, growers say the industry is finally recovering.

After two years of crop loss, wineries are now recovering in southern Ontario

After two years of major crop loss at wineries in southern Ontario, growers say the industry is finally starting to recover.

Several winemakers lost entire harvests in 2015 when periods of freezing and thawing caused grape quality to deteriorate drastically, according to Steve Mitchell, president for Essex Pelee Island Coast wine grower's association (EPIC).

But that all changed last year when the weather started cooperating.

"We had a great harvest last year, so 2016 we were really happy with," he said. "We had just enough rain, we had a gentle winter and all-in-all because of the summer the year before it gave us a good crop load."

Mitchell said there are two risky periods for growers in the winter months — the full moon in January and the full moon in February.

The weather worked out in January and as the full moon in February approaches, Mitchell said the weather seems promising.

Festival of Ice activities, EPIC

"The full moon is something we look out for because what it can do is create a different pressure system, and what that will do is create less wind," said Mitchell.

If there is less wind, cold air can settle to ground level, which could freeze the buds or the base of the plant and stop it from getting nutrients the following year, he explained.

"Then you have no new growth for the following year," he added.

Grapes are good for tourism

There are 18 wineries from Chatham-Kent westward toward Windsor and having a better grape crop helps boost tourism in the region, said Mitchell.

Over the weekend, the Festival of Ice saw a record number of visitors, with more than 1000 people taking in the event that included ice sculptures, skating, bonfires, mulled wine, tours and food.

The theme of this year's festival was Chocolate and Wine.