Lillian here, in New York (again). When I was home, I was shocked to see and hear about the low yield of our fruits this year. But it turns out, this was a regional problem. And it’s also a historical wine for winemakers the world over! I asked my father to explain a bit more, and here’s what he had to say:
1) The Polar Vortex. The prolonged and extremely frigid temperatures last winter in Wisconsin destroyed a majority of the crop of popular wine grape varieties grown throughout the state. Despite our some of our cold-hearty varieties, many vineyards were affected, including the grapevines in our backyard. The cold spring also resulted in extensive bud damage on the vines.The Midwest Wine Press recently published about the reduction in wine production in the region this year.
2) Birds and Wasps and Squirrels, Oh My! Normally, in early August I net my grapevines, meaning I drape them with nets to make it much harder for the birds to eat the ripening grapes. Normally, I also hang wasp traps throughout the vineyard and set live traps for the squirrels, chipmunks, and raccoons. Yet this year, I was mostly absent from home during July and August because I was attending to family concerns out of state. Thus, the beasties had free reign among the vines, feasting at their leisure.
3) Black rot. Black rot is a grapevine disease caused by a fungus (Guignardia bidwellii) that attacks the aboveground part of the vine during hot, humid weather, producing dark brown discoloration and decay in the leaves and a raisining of the grapes. Black rot took hold and became pronounced on my grapevines in August while I was gone, destroying my entire Marquette grape crop that had not been eaten by the critters.