Monday, November 24, 2014

Leelanau Peninsula Vintners Rise to the Challenge of the 2014 Vintage

Image of a Chardonnay vineyard in Michigan. (C...
Image of a Chardonnay vineyard in Michigan. (Chateau Fontaine in the Leelanau Peninsula AVA) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Drastically changing growing conditions are nothing new to Michigan’s Leelanau vintners. So, when this year's harvest arrived with obstacles, area vintners were up for the challenge. Leelanau growers count on Lake Michigan's open water to moderate growing conditions on the peninsula.

This past winter, Lake Michigan was frozen in late February when extreme cold temperatures hit the region, eliminating this moderating lake effect. These conditions caused damage to some grapevines, resulting in a smaller-than-average-crop for this year's harvest, a loss of more than 50% of the overall crop.

The damage mostly targeted specific European vinifera grape varieties that are more susceptible to colder temperatures, such as Merlot, Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio/Gris, Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay. Some of the hardier vinifera varieties, however, like Cabernet Franc, Riesling and Chardonnay were affected less if located on optimal sites. Hybrid varieties, including the older French American hybrids including Vignoles, Seyval Blanc, Baco, Foch; and some of the newer hybrids such as Regent, Cayuga white and Marquette were damaged much less or not affected at all.

Growers are optimistic that conditions during the remainder of October will help some varieties ripen nicely for a late October harvest. The warm and dry weather over the last few weeks helped the grapes continue to ripen. Some growers have already harvested very early varieties and report good quality, albeit low yields. No worries for consumers, though!

With robust harvests in 2011, 2012 and 2013, most Leelanau wineries have plenty of wine in their cellars. Many are now releasing full-bodied red wines from the excellent 2012 vintage and are releasing and continuing to sell great 2013 white wines. And, the bright side of unripe reds for 2014 will be a great offering of nice rosé.

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