Winter temperatures not cold or warm enough to concern Valley grape growers
It was a rather odd winter in the Annapolis Valley with regard to weather and temperatures but not extraordinary enough to worry grape growers.
Lightfoot and Wolfville Vineyards viticulturist Matthew Patterson said he isn’t overly concerned with the impact the strange weather had on vineyards. Temperatures turned cold in the late fall and this persisted into the early winter. The middle of the season was mild and although temperatures turned colder again as winter winded down, he doesn’t anticipate any damage to grapevines.
“The lowest low we’ve had was -17.5C, at least in our vineyard,” Patterson said. “We have a weather station, so we monitor that.”
He said they start to get worried when temperatures drop to -20C or lower but the mercury stayed above this point throughout the winter. He said the vines were in good shape heading into the season.
Patterson said on March 20 that the vines remain dormant and he doesn’t believe that temperatures dropped down far enough during the colder snap in mid-march to make any significant impact.
Grape Grower Stephen Ells of Ellslea Farms in Sheffield Mills said grapevines remained dormant through the mild mid-winter and he isn’t concerned about the weather impacting on their 32 acres of vineyard, which they began pruning in January.
“As much as we don’t have frost and everything, the soil really hasn’t warmed up to a temperature where it’s simulated the vines to start growing or come out of dormancy,” Ells said.
They have a lot of Vinifera grapes and are more concerned about severe cold stretches causing bud damage. They experienced temperatures as cold as -16.9 C this winter but Ells said they wouldn’t be worried unless the mercury dropped to about -20C or -22C.
At this point, he said, you have to start worrying about varieties such as Chardonnay and Pinot experiencing bud damage. With highbred varieties like L’acadie and Seyval, Ells said he wouldn’t get overly concerned unless the temperature dropped to -25C.
He said if there is an early spring in the sense that temperatures remain warm, bringing vines out of dormancy and leading to an early bud break, his concern would be a late frost damaging the buds.
Ellslea Farms is in the midst of expanding its grape growing capacity with plans to double acreage within the next four years. Ells said it’s a growing industry and an interesting one to be involved in.
Long-time agrarian Glen Ells of Sheffield Mills said it’s been a decent winter overall. If there are very cold temperatures combined with strong, cold winds, grapevines can experience freeze drying and that’s when damage occurs. Fortunately, the Valley didn’t experience these types of conditions this winter.
He said they were a little concerned over rising temperatures in February but the warmth wasn’t intense enough or sustained long enough to bring vines out of dormancy and make the buds swell.
Jamie Alexander, Arianne Janes, Allan Spinney and Matthew Patterson of Lightfoot and Wolfville Vineyards didn’t let the cold breeze blowing in from the Minas Basin stop them from pruning grapevines in an Avonport vineyard on March 20.