Freeze May Have Lasting Impact on Wine Crop

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MADISON, Ohio – Mother Nature may have slapped Northeast Ohio grape growers with an expensive loss from this year’s wine crop.

The greater concern is that this week’s deep freeze may also have killed the vines and that would affect grape harvests for years to come.

The year 2013 was a good one at the Debonne Vineyards in Madison.

But owner Tony Debevc is worried about 2014's crop because of this week’s record low temperatures.

"What happens is we start to lose fruit for the next year's crop because the buds are damaged and we can lose entire vines down to the ground," Debevc explained.

Debevc said the grapes most sensitive to the cold are the ones used to make the more popular wines.

He believes he may have lost about 50 percent of this year's grape production in this week’s sub-zero temperatures.

That is a significant loss since Debonne Vineyards is the largest grape grower in Ohio.

"We not only use these grapes for our own wine, in our own group of wineries, we sell a lot of grapes, juice and bulk wine to a lot of other wineries in the region.  We're probably looking around a quarter million dollars in loss, maybe a little bit more that this company will not have fruit to sell or use for itself,” Debevc said.

In a couple of weeks, they will look at the damage that was actually done, and they will do that by looking at the canes and the buds.

Vineyard Manager Gene Siegel said they will cut into the buds and the canes to see if they are alive or dead.

"Well, today it is still going to be green.  If we come back a couple of weeks from now and we cut into those buds and find black spots, means it was frozen, we had injury and we won't have a good crop there,” Siegel explained.

They will also adjust the pruning of the plants to try to get the greatest yield.   Then they will have to wait and see just how much has been lost when the grapes start growing on the vines later this spring.

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