late winter vineyard walkthrough
I broke out the snowshoes last Wednesday and took a quick stroll around the vineyards. This was a few days after a big winter storm hit us up here, and I ended up walking into the vineyard along tracks made by power crews that were out repairing downed power lines. We got about 18 inches of wet snow in a matter of 12 hours on the previous Friday night. It has been a strange winter…
A large part of what makes the Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsulas of Michigan conducive to growing vinifera grape vines is the influence of Lake Michigan. It is a huge moderating force in the spring and fall, keeping the air cool enough in the spring to prevent premature bud formation (and subsequent frosting), and holding air temperatures high enough in the fall to aid in ripening.
But another blessing that Lake Michigan provides for us is typically a fresh blanket of lake-effect snow throughout the winter. This insulates the vines, and protects them from extreme cold temperatures which can severely damage or even kill the vines. So, in winters as variable and unpredictable as the current one, Michigan grape growers can potentially lose a little bit of sleep.
With temperatures near 80 degrees yesterday (a record high), only a week and a half after the storm, we are quite worried indeed. Without the blanket to take us through some potentially cold nights before we hit real spring, we have to keep our fingers crossed for some cooling temperatures before the sap starts flowing, or continued mild conditions. The joys of being a farmer!