Vineyards struggle with weather
The climate in Southern Indiana and Harrison County is perfect for growing and harvesting grapes as evidence by the many wineries that call Harrison County and the surrounding area home.
But this spring, after warming up into the 70s and even reaching the upper 80s in February and March, a cold snap in early April did significant damage to area vineyards.
On top of that, some vineyards were damaged or destroyed by the hail storm April 28.
John Fouts of Grateful Goat Vineyard and Winery, located just north of Palmyra, said their vineyard received significant damage from the cold snap.
‘At first, I thought I lost about 25 percent of my Vidal crop and about 50 percent of my Steuben,’ he said. ‘But it is looking more like a 60 or 65 percent loss for Steuben now and around 35 percent loss for Vidal. So my initial estimates were a little conservative.’
Fouts said the hail storm did damage to Steuben vines as well.
‘After the cold snap, shoots started emerging from the vines’ secondary buds,’ he said. ‘These shoots are not as fruitful as shoots from primary buds. The hail damaged some of the secondary shoots that emerged.’
He said the grape crop in Indiana, and several other states, has been significantly adversely affected by the wild weather swings this year, and many areas of the country will likely see a grape shortage.
To help ease the shortage of home-grown grapes, Grateful Goat will import juices to go along with what they have on site.
‘Pretty much all wineries supplement with additional grapes and juice anyway, but this year there will be more juice importation from outside areas than normal,’ he said. ‘And the cost of inputs to the process will be higher.’
Mark Kendall with Indian Creek Winery in Georgetown said the frost and freeze destroyed his grapes in what he was hoping to be Indian Creek’s first crop. The hail storm then cleaned the ‘burnt’ growth away.
‘A month later, I’m hoping for enough greenery to support recovery for next year,’ he said. ‘In the meantime, I’ve started searching for grapes and juice for this season. I’ve got grapes from Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana and juice from New York and Canada lined up for this year. We can only pray for fair weather.’
Best Vineyards and Winery in Elizabeth only suffered minimal damage, according to Wilbert Best.
‘Given the warm temperatures while pruning, we went ahead and left extra buds on the vines,’ he said. ‘So when the frost finally got us, we had minimal damage. What got burnt off were the extra buds on the outer ends of the canes. At worst, I think we lost 10 percent of the crop.’
He said the raspberries, elderberries and blackberries did not seem to be affected by the cold at all.
On the other end of the spectrum, Scout Mountain Winery, located along S.R. 62 between Corydon and Leavenworth, experienced a total loss of vines in April.
‘We have about four acres in Depauw that only had 25 percent loss,’ Margaret Schad said. ‘But we lost 100 percent here.’
Nathan Blank, owner of Cellar on the Square in downtown Corydon, said fruit prices in general nationwide will be much higher this year since the weather fluctuation was not isolated to the Kentuckiana region.
‘I’ve heard grumblings from producers in other states, specifically Michigan, that are fairing much worse than we are,’ he said.
Area wineries and breweries will have an opportunity to show and sell their products Saturday, May 26, at the Southern Indiana Uncorked Festival at the Harrison County Fairgrounds in Corydon from 1 to 7 p.m.