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CJS

Water drips from a pruning at CJS Vineyards & Aurelius Winery.

We got 4 inches of snow on the morning of April 1, and it all melted by the mid-afternoon — an April Fool’s Day joke by Mother Nature! Now it’s almost the end of April, the days are getting longer and the sun definitely feels warmer when it’s shining. At CJS Vineyards, we have completed all our vineyard pruning and tying, and now we’re patiently waiting for bud break, which usually occurs around May 1. The Cornell Cooperative Extension Finger Lakes Grape Program recently reported an “average” number of growing degree days in April to date. GDD are calculated by subtracting 50 degrees from the average daily temperature; if that value is less than 0, then the GDD accumulation for that day is zero. If the average daily temperature was 60, then the GDD for that day would be 10 (60 minus 50 equals 10). The 50-degree temperature reference point is used because that’s the temperature where grape vines start getting active after the winter dormant period. So far in April this looks good, and winter bud damage has been reported between 8 and 42 percent throughout the Finger Lakes — a fairly “normal” range. As soil temperatures warm up, grapevine roots start taking up water from the ground; in the picture with this column, we can see water running out the pruned end of the vine, which is good. So we soon will see how we fared the 2018-2019 winter.

Things are picking up in the winery. We reopened our tasting room the first weekend in April, and have seen many visitors this month. Lots of local folks are glad to be out and about tasting wine, and visitors from out of state are doing some vacationing in the Finger Lakes — a sure sign that spring is really here! We are also beginning to bottle some of our wines, whites from the 2018 vintage and reds from 2017. We're bringing in new glass, corks, labels and capsules — everything necessary to bottle our wine — so we are busy, and so are our local suppliers.

This past week I was able to participate in the Cayuga Community College Cultural Speaker Series roundtable, "Winemaking in Cayuga County," at the college. The roundtable was well-attended and representatives from Heart & Hands Wine Co., Izzo’s White Barn Winery, Long Point Winery and CJS Vineyards answered questions from the moderator Carmela Barbagallo, executive director of the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance, and the audience. Discussion was about our wineries, grape growing and winemaking in the Finger Lakes. We also were asked to provide tips to home winemakers, explain what are the hardest grapes to grow in our area, and which are our personal favorite grapes and wines. One theme among all the wineries was the smaller size, family ownership and love of grape growing and winemaking here in the Finger Lakes. Each winery brought a red and white wine for the group to sample as the winemakers explained how each wine was crafted. Hors d'oeuvres were served, and the event was a big success!

With Old Man Winter behind us, and great weather upon us, now is the perfect time to check out the excellent wineries right here in Cayuga County and taste the highly acclaimed Finger Lakes wines! Cheers!

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Chris Scholomiti is co-owner and winemaker at CJS Vineyards & Aurelius Winery, located at 6900 Fosterville Road, Aurelius. Our tasting room is open Saturdays and Sundays beginning April 5, and by appointment. For more information, questions or comments about the column or wine and grape-growing in the Finger Lakes, email wine@cjsvineyards.com, call (315) 730-4619 or find the winery on Facebook or TripAdvisor.

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