Friday, May 11, 2012

2011-2012 Warm Winter

The spring is a great time of the year at the vineyard, full of surprises and expectation for the new growing year.  The winter temperatures were great from November all through to April.  There were few days overall that went below -10c and the coldest day was February 27 when the temperature went to -18.6c and another cold day of -18c at the end of January.  Of particular interest was the day time temperatures that were experienced in February and March when several of the days reached the 5c-10c mark. 

We also experience lower snow pack than usual.  We often have 2-3 feet in February but by the end of the month there was none.  While the precipitation was near normal alot more of the moisture fell as rain than snow, especially in the month of February.  As such come early March the snow was all but gone. 

Not a hard winter by any stretch of the imagination but these condition present their own issues to overwintering grape vines.  While the temperature was not harsh, what we experienced this year was a tremendous diurnal fluctuation.  The day time highs in February almost always over 5c but the night time lows were in the -5 to -10 range depending on the day.  This freeze thaw action accompanying this diurnal fluctuation can begin to bring vines out of dormancy, especially the buds and canes.

While these types of temperatures are not uncommon in February, the usual snow pack moderates the temperature and limits the large day nigh temperature swings.  In addition the snow keeps the soil temperature low and often covers some of the canes, serving to inhibit vines coming out of dormancy.
The lack of snow and warm day temperatures followed by the cold nights and the deep freeze in late February appears to have been injurious to some of the vines.  As of early May most of the varieties were showing bud push and we could assess winter damage.

The vines showing most damage are Regent, Cabernet Foch, Cabernet Libre, Ortega and Ravat 34.  The damage to the Ravat 34 can be more likely attributed to the over cropping of the vine last year in combination with the winter climate and we'll be able to assess this better at bud break.  The Leon Millot and Triompe D'Alsace (TDA) showed some moderate bud damage but not unlike what is experienced most winters and in the case of the TDA the buds were just starting to push and full assessment can not be made.  Lastly, the Castel, Lucy Kuhlman, Foch, Colmar Precoce Noir, Petite Milo and Evangeline did very well and show excellent bud/cane survival. 

I was surprised at the poor survival of the Regent as this was the mildest winter we've experienced.  it has been 3 winters now and these vines just don't do well at our site.  It may be the freeze thaw action in the winter, it may bee we don't have a long period for the vine to go into dormancy.  Regardless they don't do well while other vines excel.  Similarly the Cab Foch, Cabernet Libre, and Ortega have not done well and we will pull them this year.