Summer is almost here, and we’ve had a real quick comeback to the grape growing season. It was a cold early spring, so by mid-May grapevine development was about 23 days behind a typical year (according to the Cornell Cooperative Extension Finger Lakes Grape Program data). Then the heat wave arrived, multiple days above 90 degrees, then a normal period and another blast of warm air. Well, by mid-June we caught up to normal vine development, so thank you, Mother Nature! That’s life in the Finger Lakes for grape farmers.
In the vineyard our trellis system includes wood vineyard posts 22 feet on center per row and two fruiting wires 26 inches apart across all the posts starting about 2 feet off the vineyard floor. End posts are tied to a steel earth anchor drilled into the ground approximately 3 feet. The vines are pruned and trained to the fruiting wires in the spring, and as growth continues the vine develops flowers, then grapes and the canopy grows providing nourishment to the clusters. Today we worked in the vineyard moving catch wires up on the trellis posts. Catch wires are movable wires that run the length of the vineyard row on each side of the vines. As the vines grow, shoots tend to get tall and splay out, shading the grape clusters and preventing good air circulation through the canopy. The movable catch wires are pulled up along the posts and keep shoots upright allowing sunlight to get to the grapes and air to move about freely, minimizing mildew and other diseases.
We also start a spray program this time of the year to prevent powdery mildew, downy mildew and assortment of other pests that prey on grape vines. Depending on the weather conditions we will spray about every two weeks until August.
Mid-June is also bloom time. The grape buds have opened up and the flowers begin to bloom. These are tiny white flowers that are self-pollinating. If the weather is dry during the bloom period, we get a good fruit set, but if we get heavy rain conditions the pollination can be poor and less grapes will actually be produced. The long-term forecast looks pretty good for now.
Winery tasting rooms have been shut-down to guests since March. During this downtime in our tasting room, we did some painting and freshening up, worked on our tractor, pumps and other equipment, bottled and labeled some wine, and did some outdoor work on the landscaping.
The good news for wineries in the Finger Lakes is the phase 3 re-opening that began on June 12. Finally, we can have guests in our tasting rooms for the first time this season! To re-open, wineries developed a written NY Forward Safety Plan to make sure employees and guests are safe when coming into the winery. Mesures include personal protective equipment where necessary, worker health screening, and cleaning and disinfecting common surfaces after each tasting session. Our winery is doing tastings by appointment to limit the occupancy of our tasting room, and guests will be required to wear a face covering to enter. Unfortunately dogs won’t be allowed in the winery at this point. We also have a single use disposable tasting sheet, and signatures won’t be required for credit card purchases, so customers don’t have to touch the tablet key pad.
With good summer weather and the ability to get out, people can now enjoy tasting Finger Lakes wines in their own backyard once again. Before heading out to your favorite winery, call and check to see if any special requirements are needed to visit due to COVID19.
Chris Scholomiti is co-owner and winemaker at CJS Vineyards & Aurelius Winery, located at 6900 Fosterville Road, Aurelius. The winery's tasting room is now open by appointment, and it also offers curbside social distancing pickup and wine shipments. For more information, questions or comments about the column or wine and grape-growing in the Finger Lakes, email firstname.lastname@example.org, call (315) 730-4619 or find the winery on Facebook.
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