Finger Lakes Wines and Grapes: May Weather is Good for Vineyards | Lifestyles

Chris Scholomiti special for the citizen

Wow: So far, May has been a wonderful month for winemakers. After a cold start to the spring of 2022, we had hot, dry and low humidity for seven days, perfect for the development of the vine. Early ripening grapes have shoots 1 to 2 inches long, and late ripening grapes have the buds opening and leaf growth beginning. This is an important period in the development of the vine, as a severe frost at this time could kill off the tender early growth. Warm days and cloudy, windy nights through the end of May would be really great. I hope Mother Nature will help us.

Last year we were unable to get new vines from nurseries due to COVID-19 related shortages. However, this year we have purchased new vines to fill in the gaps in the vineyard following past years’ losses due to sub-zero winter temperatures. We planted the new bare root grafted vines around the end of April. We then placed grow tubes over the new vines, protecting them from rabbit and deer damage. Herbivores appreciate the tender new shoots of the vines!

The blue colored grow tubes also help new vines grow faster and bigger. The reason for this is that as plants do photosynthesis (sunlight, carbon dioxide and water let the plants make sugar and in turn give off oxygen and water), the wavelength of the blue light spectrum from 440 to 470 nm is where chlorophyll absorption is greatest, promoting vegetative growth. We see significant growth with grow tubes compared to vines that don’t use them. The tubes remain in place until September, then we remove them and let the vine acclimate to the colder temperatures ahead. What used to take three years to get a vine big enough and healthy enough to bear fruit can now be accomplished in two years with blue grow tubes.

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On April 26, the Finger Lakes Grape Program held its Spring Integrated Pest Management Meeting at Wagner Vineyards on the east side of Seneca Lake. The textbook definition of “IPM” is an effective and environmentally friendly approach to pest management that relies on common sense practices. These include regularly monitoring the vineyards to see if mold, fungus or insects are harming the vines, using biological controls, modifying cultural practices to allow for good air circulation and drainage , and to plant resistant types of grapes. Pesticides are used for the sole purpose of killing the target organism and in a way that minimizes risk to human health, beneficial organisms and the environment.

The meeting was well attended, with over 100 people. Presentations were given by Cornell educators on disease management, weed management and insect control. Participants discovered new materials and practices used to protect vines and crops. Grapevine disease organisms can develop resistance to certain materials over time if not properly applied, so we must be careful.

The spotted-winged lantern (an invasive species that is troublesome to vineyards and orchards) has been discussed, as it has recently been found in Binghamton, Ithaca, the Hudson Valley, and Long Island. We would like to prevent them from invading the Finger Lakes. We also heard from a representative of the state Department of Environmental Conservation about safety practices and the information needed to educate vineyard and farm workers.

Chris Scholomiti

After the meeting, a dinner was organized, allowing the producers to discuss and meet. The previous two years we met online for the IPM meeting. This year was much better!

Wineries are busy bottling wine this time of year. Bottling wine is a complex process: first the wines must be ready, which means the wines have been racked to remove sediment and decanted; perhaps the wine is a barrel-aged blend. Bottles and caps must be on site. Then the bottling line must be disinfected. Otherwise, wild yeasts could be introduced into the bottle. The yeasts would then combine with any residual sugar in the wine to cause a second fermentation, and the cork would explode right out of the bottle! Many amateur winegrowers have experienced this.

Cleanliness is an absolute when bottling wine. Preparation and cleaning often take longer than the actual bottling. So the next time you open a bottle of wine and notice the clarity, excellent nose and wonderful mouthfeel, you’ll know that a lot of effort has gone into before and during bottling to allow you to enjoy the moment.

Chris Scholomiti is co-owner and winemaker of CJS Vineyards & Aurelius Winery, located at 6900 Fosterville Road, Aurelius. The winery is open in 2022 by appointment for tastings and curbside pickup; please call or text ahead. For more information, questions or comments about the column or viticulture and viticulture in the Finger Lakes, email [email protected] or call (315) 730-4619.

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