August 2014 Issue
Editor's Note: Growth Industry
Our winter was tough on the state’s grape growers. Weeks of subzero temperatures wreaked havoc on this year’s crop and were especially devastating to northeast Ohio vineyards.
Since the 19th century, our state has been home to grape producers who have benefited from the warm breezes that blow in from Lake Erie. But this year’s extremely low winter temperatures led to some sobering figures from The Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Early estimates projected the loss of 97 percent of this year’s European grape varieties and 57 percent of its hybrid varieties. Concord and catawba grapes native to the state have fared better, with more than two-thirds expected to survive. But there is concern about vine and trunk damage that could lower grape yields for years.
The numbers sound serious and they are. But Ohio’s grape growers are resilient. We talked to several of them for our look at Ohio wine country, where the grapes grown in previous seasons have been turned into a wide variety of wines that go far beyond the sweet creations so commonly associated with our state.
Our veteran grape producers realize weather-related losses are part of the challenge of growing here. Ohio State University experts estimate vineyards that cultivate
European grape varieties have a season’s worth of crops wiped out by winter around once a decade. But the extremity of this year’s losses led the university to offer workshops throughout the state, where they taught growers how to assess damage and prune affected vines.
Part of the reason there was a need for such education is that the industry has grown so much in the past 20 years. (The last time Ohio grape growers had a comparably brutal winter was 1994.) Wineries and vineyards aren’t located only along Lake Erie or the Ohio River. They’ve sprouted up in the center of the state and among the hills of southeast Ohio. The number of wine producers here totals more than 175, so no matter where you live, there’s likely a place making wine close by.
With the arrival of the last full month of summer, why not make a trip to one of the six Ohio wine regions we showcase starting on page 40. We’ll introduce you to some of the people who have been growing grapes in Ohio for years — sometimes, even generations — and suggest some bottles to keep an eye out for during your travels. (But trust us, these are just a glimpse into the great wines being produced here.)
Most of all, let’s support Ohio’s grape growers as they work to get their vines and their businesses back on track. We think you’ll be happy you did. Here’s to warmer winters ahead.