Area vineyards combat cold ahead of spring bud break

Area vineyard owners agree spring couldn’t come soon enough.  The warmer weather will answer whether they did enough to protect the vines over the winter.

Mike Wilson, also known as “Merlot Mike,” started the Vineyards at Hershey two years ago with friends.  He says this is one of the roughest winters that’s requires more maintenance.

Wilson says they, “Make sure the roots and trunks of vines are protected and we constantly watch that.”

Wilson says the 40-acre vineyard is planted to keep the crop alive during a freeze.

He says, “We’re planted on a total slope and so cold air stays at the bottom and heat rises, so we’ve been relatively well protected.  In addition, because it’s been cold and snowy, we haven’t pruned as much as we normally would.”

By not being able to prune, the workers don’t remove the branches and roots that are now protecting the vines.

Inside the tasting room, the cold and snow impact business. Wilson says when the weather forces the vineyard to close, it falls short thousands of dollars.  But the demand doesn’t go away, and it keeps “Merlot Mike” busy no matter what the weather conditions are.

He says, “snow or no snow, ice, we’re going to hustle and make sure we keep our dreams going.”

To be protected from future storms that could hurt the wine crop, Cornell has created a hybrid grape.  It’s meant to create wine in very cold temperatures.  Vineyards at Hershey is experimenting with it this year. Right now, the wine is bottle aging and could be the solution to wine making in frigid temperatures.