January 2017 Issue of Wines & Vines

VINTAGE 2016: Return to Normal Across Much of North America

Good to excellent quality reported in most regions; drought and inclement weather cause problems in some areas

by Andrew Adams

From the Pacific Northwest, where Washington growers brought in a record haul of grapes that were of high quality, to Michigan, which enjoyed a great year after two disappointing vintages, the 2016 vintage was a welcome return to something close to normal.  

Most harvest reports received by Wines & Vines this year were positive, but conditions weren’t ideal everywhere. Parts of Texas endured hailstorms and rainstorms, while some areas in the Midwest suffered through freezes, and the Finger Lakes region of New York saw a particularly dry summer.

In California, yields were generally lower than average because of the persistent drought and another warm winter that resulted in fruit set taking place during the cooler and windier days of early spring. The Paso Robles AVA bounced back with normal to slightly less-than-normal yields after a light harvest in 2015. Growers in parts of Monterey County feared smoke taint from wildfires there, but that problem was limited to those vineyards closest to the blaze.

For vineyards in the Sierra Nevada Foothills, erratic spring weather caused a particularly long fruit set, and some rain heightened the risk of powdery mildew. Many growers had to make as much as six or more mildew applications. The rest of the growing season, however, proceeded along smoothly. “Warm to mild temperatures and dry weather in September helped harvest run smoothly with no rot problems and fantastic flavor development,” reported viticulture farm advisor Lynn Wunderlich of the University of California Cooperative Extension.

While quite welcome because of the drought, early spring rains brought added pest and disease pressure throughout the state. A moderate summer with few heat spikes helped ensure good grape quality at harvest. “Overall, quality looks good, and quantity is much improved over 2015,” said Jason Haas, partner and general manager of Tablas Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles, Calif. “It’s early to tell what things will be like, but two things give us good hopes for its prospects. First is the overall similarity in sequencing, weather and yields to 2014, which we consider our best recent vintage overall. Second is the deep colors and intense aromas of what we’ve been harvesting. Skins on our red grapes appear to have been very thick. Flavors should be intense.”

East of the Rockies, Wines & Vines also received generally positive reports about the harvest. The news was particularly good out of Michigan, which had suffered two consecutive vintages with challenging conditions.

“An excellent growing season allowed for a real comeback in the region, following two years of disastrous crop losses from extreme winter cold, spring freezes and a terrible hail storm in 2014-15,” said Erwin Elsner, an extension educator with Michigan State University. “Most vineyards produced full crops of excellent maturity.”

David Scurlock at The Ohio State University reported that 2016 will be a year to remember. He said grapes matured “with excellent sugars balanced with moderate to low acids.”

A kind winter led to an even kinder summer and fall that did not bring any unwanted precipitation. “July through November were drier and warmer, providing an excellent ripening period,” Scurlock said. “Rainfall during the harvest period was beneficial, with timely amounts and contributed to the overall yield and quality.”

There was a bit too much sunshine and dry weather in the Finger Lakes region of New York. Drought conditions there hampered grape development but also minimized disease pressure. While yields were lower than normal, Hans Walter-Peterson with the Cornell Cooperative Extension said fruit quality remained high. “Sugar accumulation was hindered in some cases due to water stress, but overall impressions are that quality is very good,” he said. “Years like this tend to be especially good for production of red wines in the Finger Lakes.”

The harvest in Virginia was inconsistent, and a week of rain in September forced some growers to bring in most of their grapes at once. Before those storms, however, the weather had been mostly warm and dry, helping early and mid-ripening varieties achieve good quality that could produce excellent wines.

Finding sufficient labor continues to be a problem—one that is growing acute in grapegrowing regions all over North America. Growers and winemakers reported that finding crews for routine vineyard work and harvesting is getting harder, and it’s not uncommon for workers to not show up when scheduled. Competition from other crops and a scarcity of workers made labor the most commonly cited challenge of 2016 not related to the weather or pest and disease issues. More vineyard tasks are being mechanized, and many more wineries and growers reported working with harvesters equipped with onboard destemmers and sorting systems.

For this annual harvest report, Wines & Vines surveyed extension advisors and expert growers in major regions and also performed targeted surveys of winemakers and growers in California, the Northwest, Midwest and eastern states. The following are reports from an expert survey of regional viticulturists, and quotes and results from a general survey of wine industry personnel. Wines & Vines appreciates the input every year and encourages readers to contact edit@winesandvines.com with harvest reports in 2017.




Lynn Wunderlich
Viticulture farm advisor
University of California Cooperative Extension

Terrific fruit quality with average to above-average yields reported for most Sierra Foothills varieties after a challenging season managing strong canopies developed from ample winter rainfall. Zinfandel was average to above average in yield and quality with juicy berries and little shrivel. Grenache suffered some shatter, and some growers reported lighter crops in Petite Sirah and Barbera. Whites varied in yield—Chardonnay was heavy to average; Rousanne was a little light; Vermentino was heavy.

Spring bloom was drawn out by erratic weather (warm then cool) in some locations. Several long summer heat spikes of temperatures 95° F and above fizzled out by the beginning of harvest in late August. 2016 was about a week earlier to harvest than “average,” although less early by about a week than last year. Warm to mild temperatures and dry weather in September helped harvest run smoothly, with no rot problems and fantastic flavor development.

Powdery mildew was an issue for many this year due to spring showers and large canopies that required more shoot thinning in order for spray applications to be effective. Six or more mildew applications were not uncommon. Growers are keenly aware of grapevine red blotch-associated virus, and many are now testing. Winter rainfall quelled the four-year drought in most locations. Labor continues to be a concern.

Italian varieties such as Nebbiolo, Vermentino and of course Barbera hold interest for both growers and winemakers. Gamay acreage is expanding to meet growing demand.


George Zhuang
Viticulture farm advisor
University of California Cooperative Extension

In 2016 the overall yield of grapes in Fresno was down approximately 10% to 15% from last year. The fruit quality overall was great in 2016 as compared to poor fruit quality the previous year.

Early ripening of fruit was reported with the occurrence of heat waves. We had good amounts of precipitation after harvest, and that was desirable for the area.

Increasing disease and pest pressure from vine mealybug and powdery mildew were concerns for the region in 2016.

Grape prices in Fresno depended on several factors like varieties, contracts and winery demands. Overall, prices were stable or slightly improved, although the variation between varieties could be significant. The interest in mechanical pruning and canopy management increased with more and more concern about labor challenges in this region.

Water shortages and quality will continue to be challenges in some areas of Fresno, particularly on the west side. Labor challenges will continue to push the grape industry to transition to mechanization.

he use of Thompson seedless as wine grapes will be a challenge. Pinot Gris and red blends have become more and more popular in this region.


Tracey Hawkins
Hawk and Horse Vineyards

From bud break through bloom and véraison,Lake County saw textbook weather patterns. Warm spring days, shifting to a hot, bright summer with cooling coastal breezes in the evenings. Harvest was slightly early—not as early as the 2015 vintage, but about two weeks earlier than normal. Countywide, growers reported even maturity and ripening. Yields for white varieties were slightly above average. Yields for reds have been more variable, with some yields above average and some slightly below average.


Lindsay Jordan
Area viticulture advisor
University of California Cooperative Extension

Rains in March and April allowed for vigorous vine growth early in the season, but also variable conditions during bloom, which may have affected fruit set on some varieties. Very hot summer temperatures sustained from the end of June onward resulted in some reports of undesirable raisining and sunburn and a lack of color development in red varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon. Even when quality was maintained, overall yields appeared to be somewhat less than average for most varieties.

While El Niño did not bring the onslaught of rain many growers hoped for during the winter, we did see a wet spring, which helped bolster a more uniform bud break. A very hot summer followed, with one intense heat wave event in late June that ushered in sustained high summer temperatures for the rest of the season. Harvest was almost entirely complete by late October, when the first real rain event occurred.

There was ample rain in the months of March and April, allowing for some phomopsis and botrytis shoot tip infections to emerge. According to the Powdery Mildew Risk Assessment Index, conditions were generally favorable for powdery mildew growth from April until July.


Sufficient rainfall last winter allowed the vines in the North Coast to develop strong roots and produce full canopies. “This has really helped the vineyards in Mendocino, Red Hills and Alexander Valley thrive through the late-season heat that pushed our Cabernet, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Syrah to ripeness after a long, cool summer of even and steady fruit maturation,” said John Killebrew, winemaker at Z. Alexander Brown Wines. “We are pleased with the excellent flavor development, acid, and tannin balance that we will reap from this excellent vintage.”

George Phelan, director of winemaking at Dunnewood Vineyards & Winery, said Oct. 2 marked the first storm of the 2016 harvest and followed “a near-perfect growing season” as the rains came after the majority of the fruit in Mendocino County had been picked. “The 2016 growing season started with winter and spring rains that were near normal, compared to the drought conditions of 2012-15,” he said. “The warm and dry summer contributed to an early harvest. The resulting wines are flavorful, and the red wines deeply colored.”


Larry Bettiga
Viticulture farm advisor
University of California Cooperative Extension

Although yields were average to below average, quality was good. Fruit set was better than 2015. Lower cluster numbers and size reduced the crop potential. Concerns of smoke taint were high with the prolonged Soberanes Fire that burned more than 132,000 acres, but testing of fruit showed vineyards in the Salinas Valley were not affected by smoke. Some vineyards in the Carmel Valley AVA, which was closer to the fire, were affected and not harvested.

A warm, late winter resulted in early bud break. Moderate growing season temperatures prolonged the growing season and stretched the harvest period. Harvest began in the second week of August for sparkling wines and continued until the end of October.

Rain after bud break and moderate temperatures with the absence of any heat spikes provided ideal conditions for early powdery mildew infection and disease development. Additional sprays and canopy management were required to maintain disease control and in some sites disease reduced crop potential.

Grape demand was good with very little uncommitted fruit by harvest. Most vineyards had average to below-average yields.


Monica Cooper
Viticulture farm advisor
University of California Cooperative Extension

The Napa wine industry should be quite pleased with the quantity and quality of the 2016 harvest. I would characterize the season as steady with a few curveballs. Vines had sufficient soil moisture to grow healthy, full canopies; bloom-time conditions were generally favorable, and the weather throughout the season was mild with few extremes, resulting in a steady but not overly extended harvest of reportedly well-balanced fruit.

Most notable was the cool weather through late summer and into the fall. We did not experience typical heat extremes during the harvest period. The continued trend of warmer nighttime temperatures throughout the year could have long-term implications.


Paul Verdegaal
Farm advisor
University of California Cooperative Extension

Yields were similar to 2015 (about average to slightly below average), but young vines and some blocks were more heavily cropped. Fruit quality was very good, total acids and pH levels good for the average to slightly warm season (about 3,600 growing degree days). Harvest began 14 to 21 days early, with mixed progression of variety ripening for early varieties such as Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Then harvest slowed for mid-season and later varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Malbec. Rain on Oct. 14 was heavy and stalled picking. Harvest finished about average in late October.

December and January were very wet, which helped mitigate dry soils. Dry February slowed weeds, but March was wet. Vine growth was very strong.

Bud break came early by 10 days and was later than 2015. Spring was warm and dry, but nights were average. No morning dew was present until very late in the year. No frost or hail events occurred as in 2015. The maximum temperature only reached above 100° F for nine days (the average is 17 days). Rain on Oct. 14 was heavy, about 3 inches. Some late ripening varieties were affected.

Powdery mildew pressure started late but caused scattered problems. Mites came very late, but scattered. Vine mealybug populations started early, and more severe honeydew was seen on vine trunks than in the past. Control held, but some high levels were seen at harvest. Sour rot or summer bunch rot was very light. Canker diseases increased.

Prices were stable but weakening in some varieties. Minimums were offered or low offers for unsigned fruit. Muscat types, Cabernet and quality reds for blends were wanted; Chardonnay and Zinfandel less so. New varieties include Teroldego, Montepulciano, Tempranillo, Petite Sirah, Chenin Blanc and Vermentino.

Growers showed greatly increased interest in high-wire cordon for machine-pruned vines and mechanized leaf removal and shoot thinning. We noted new spray technology and evapotranspiration (ET)/soil moisture monitors, surface-renewal ET and GPS mapping as well as yield monitoring and sorting on machines. Safety equipment and materials were added to meet new laws.

Regulatory costs and reporting requirements were significantly up; labor was in shorter supply; wage and benefit costs were up 50% in four years. Concerns included new Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program rules and reporting, regulatory proposals of EPA, DPR & OSHA and SGMA implementation for groundwater.

Lodi has been recognized for quality and value. Growers look for higher yields and/or lower costs with the same or better fruit quality. They continued replanting old and diseased vines and planted some new vineyards. Eutypa-affected blocks were removed for replanting. Concerns continued about trunk canker diseases and virus problems.


Jason Haas
Partner and general manager
Tablas Creek Vineyard
Chairman of Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance board

Overall, quality looked good, and quantity much improved over 2015. We were right at 3 tons per acre off our estate, which was up 50% over the painfully low crops of 2015 and right at our 20-year average. In character, it’s early to tell what things will be like, but two things make us hopeful for its prospects. First is the overall similarity in sequencing, weather and yields to 2014, which we consider our best recent vintage overall. Second is the deep colors and intense aromas of what we’ve been harvesting. Skins on our red grapes appear to have been very thick, and flavors should be intense.

It was a warm year overall, spurring our earliest-ever bud break, roughly three weeks earlier than normal. After a cool May, the first two-thirds of the summer was very warm, but a cool stretch starting in mid-August and continuing until mid-September allowed us to ease into a harvest that began two weeks earlier than average. The weather warmed back up again in mid-September, and we finished harvest with a flurry, ending Oct. 8, three weeks early.

Leafhoppers came late but were as big a nuisance during harvest as we’ve ever seen. The high stress that the grapevines were under due to the ongoing drought and the warm summer seemed to cause them to manifest more virus this year, but nothing seemed too damaging, and we were happy in the end.

Yields were much better than 2015 (up 50%) but really only at our long-term averages. Upward pricing pressure seemed modest.

We have been focusing more on night harvesting, particularly on our whites, due to wanting to bring them into the cellar cool and minimizing oxidation. Because we hand-harvest, this meant light towers and careful dropping of fruit during daylight hours before picks.
The drought was an issue in the stress that we saw on grapevines. But we’ve been focusing on planting dry-farmed in recent years, and those blocks seemed to be more successful this year, as we received about 80% of our normal winter rainfall.

Roussanne and Mourvedre (our two most important, and latest-harvested, grapes) both seemed most impacted by the summer stress. Perhaps because they had to finish their ripening when it was hot in late September and early October. We saw significant defoliation by harvest and lower sugars and acids.


Rhonda J. Smith
Viticulture farm advisor
University of California Cooperative Extension

Bud break was only a few days later than the previous year, and once again harvest began in mid- to late August for still wines. The mild winter was almost a repeat of last year with minimum temperatures in January and February remaining above 32° F and staying mostly in the 40°s, which caused buds to push before March. Rainfall in March filled soil profiles and most vineyard reservoirs, ensuring an adequate water supply for irrigation. It was a long bloom, which is common in mild winters, but this year temperatures were warmer in May and June so most—but not all—growers had better fruit set. Yields in 2016 were at or just below average.

March was mild and wet with more than 10 inches of rainfall, and temperatures were above freezing. March and April had highs in the 70°s and 80°s, respectively. In the warmer regions, there were only a few days of triple-digit temperatures in June and July and fewer during harvest. Warm periods were short stretches of highs in the 90°s. In both September and October, most daily highs ranged from the 70°s to the 90°s, which allowed for slower ripening.

Powdery mildew control was a challenge. The weather was ideal for rapid spore production, and the labor shortage meant that canopy management was significantly delayed, which increased disease. Cooler areas saw a greater incidence of worms. Vine mealybug continued to spread into new blocks.

Demand for Sonoma County grapes outstrips fruit supply, and while overall yields were better than in 2015, buyers wanted more, and in general grape prices increased.

The labor shortage was evident and more severe. Starting with pruning, many vineyard farming practices performed on individual grapevines were done late. Growers increased the acreage they machine picked, and more fruit destined for high-end programs was mechanically harvested.



Peter Mitham
Northwest correspondent
Wines & Vines

British Columbia saw its earliest-ever bud break this year, when vines in the Fraser Valley budded out the first week of March. The early start to the season was mirrored in other growing regions, but cool weather in June slowed progress. A wave of wet weather that swept through the Okanagan Valley in July helped keep vines hydrated, but without the damage other crops experienced. The rain showers made disease suppression challenging and led to overgrowth on some of the more vigorous varieties, however.

Growers in the Similkameen Valley reported heading into véraison a full three weeks ahead of average. Harvest likewise got off to an early start, with the first grapes being picked in mid-August. Vineyards on Black Sage Road in the South Okanagan saw grapes harvested as early as Aug. 17.

Summer brought few days above 35° C (95° F), the point at which B.C. vines shut down grape development, and moderate conditions continued through September and October. The result was a long finish to an early season and fruit with a good balance of acids and sugars.

Most growers in the Okanagan were finished with harvest by late October. The 22 wineries registered to pick grapes for ice wine had an opportunity Dec. 6, but intentions were generally down from previous years. The overall grape harvest promises to total more than 30,000 tons—the biggest ever for the province.


Moya Dolsby
Executive director
Idaho Wine Commission

Overall we saw an increase in yields of about 10%-15%. Our fruit was very clean this year and met our requirements for Brix and acidity. 2016 was about 10 days ahead of average bud break and bloom. We saw optimal weather during the berry development stage, which may explain the slight increase in yield. Harvest started about five days ahead of average, and through fall we saw mild and optimal weather.

Low to average disease pressure was experienced this year. Little and infrequent rain with low humidity may explain the low powdery mildew pressure.

An early leaf-removal technique aided in reducing powdery mildew but may lead to increased incidence of sunburn in some varieties. By the end of the season, most wineries reported full tanks and barrels.


Patty Skinkis
Viticulture extension specialist
and associate professor
Oregon State University

The yield in 2016 was considered average for the state. The past two vintages (2014 and 2015) were very large for Oregon. Growers reported 20%-40% lower total yields in 2016 from the prior year, depending on region.

The state experienced a warm spring leading to early bud break and bloom. Bloom time weather in late May/early June was variable across the state, leading to variable set, but it was one of the earliest bloom dates in recent years. Early summer was mild, and August was hot. Because of the early start to the season, harvest was early, starting in late August and being mostly completed by late September to early October. Quality is good.

The 2016 season was a relatively typical year with respect to disease pressure (powdery mildew) and required close attention to spray programs to maintain prevention of powdery mildew. The dry conditions in August and September led to clean fruit at harvest.

Labor availability is a growing issue for producers each year. With the shift in crops in the Willamette Valley, there seems to be greater pressure on the labor force as other crops compete with grapes for those workers.


Vicky Scharlau
Executive director
Washington Association
of Wine Grape Growers

Washington overall saw very high quality with above-average yields (some as high as 25% or more). Winemakers are happy with quality of the wine at this point. Crop levels were up for most varieties due to set and cooler temps after véraison.

Spring was reminiscent of 2015: early bud break and above-average temperatures. Conditions at bloom were favorable for exceptional set. June cooled off, but overall degree-days were ahead of average and similar to 2013 and 2014. Harvest started in early August and progressed rapidly. Cooler conditions in September and cool, rainy conditions in mid-October slowed harvest. Harvest for most ended the second week of November, but grapes were still being picked after Thanksgiving.

Rapid canopy growth led to some mildew, but it was not a big problem for most. Some areas dropped infected fruit and did significant leaf stripping to gain control. Early growth and heat resulted in rapid population development, causing some growers to treat for spider mites.

Yields were above average by a significant margin this year. This was driven by exceptional set and cooler post-véraison temperatures. Demand appears strong with smaller and/or high-tier producers.

More growers are utilizing harvesters with onboard destemmers, and winemakers are very happy with quality of fruit delivered. Optical sorters are also being utilized more. Smaller producers (wineries) are warming up to mechanical harvesting.

Labor was in short supply for all ag with upward price pressure to keep a work force in place. Most growers are mechanizing some tasks that have been done by hand. Water is not an issue. Tank space is an issue we got through logistically with extended harvest, but in a condensed year we would have to have made changes to harvest practices.


Bruce Bordelon
Professor of viticulture
Purdue University

Overall this year’s crop quantity was average, returning to normal following the polar vortex disaster of 2014. Many vineyards have been fully retrained and are back to full production. The mild winter of 2015-16 and lack of significant spring frost led to full crops. Quality of red varieties in particular was excellent this year due to a warmer than normal growing season.

2016 was warmer overall, and wetter during the critical ripening period. A very warm and dry June helped reduce incidence of the major diseases. August and September were much warmer and wetter than normal, leading to some problems, especially with the white varieties. Red varieties, on the other hand, benefited from the warm conditions, which allowed for full maturity on late-ripening varieties such as Chambourcin, Noiret and Norton.

The most common problem was bunch rot or sour rot complex in thin-skinned varieties due to excess rain during ripening. Fruit cracking and subsequent spoilage was impossible to control. Some growers experienced total losses on highly susceptible varieties such as Vignoles and Chardonel.

Grape prices continue to be strong, and demand is far greater than supply.

Labor availability is a major concern for producers in the Midwest. Migrant crews are generally not available for short-term harvest work.

The polar vortex of 2014 killed or severely damaged many popular varieties. Some growers retrained or replanted, but others decided to pull those vines in favor of more cold hardy varieties. Valvin Muscat, Chardonel and Traminette were the most severely damaged.


Mike White
Extension viticulture specialist
Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

Both the quality and quantity of grapes were up in 2016. It was an excellent growing season with normal to below-normal rainfall.

The price of cold-climate hybrid grapes is gradually trending upward. Iowa now has eight mechanical harvesters, and this is the first year two units were used for custom harvesting. Labor is short and expensive. Mechanical everything is becoming the trend.

Field labor is short and expensive, but tank space was not a problem. It is common for grapes to move across state lines.

Dry harvest weather allowed for higher quality tight-cluster varieties like Vignoles, Leon Millot and Seyval. Marquette, Petite Pearl, LaCrescent, Frontenac, Frontenac Gris, Frontenac Blanc, Edelweiss and Brianna are becoming signature varieties for Iowa.


Erwin Elsner
Extension educator
Michigan State University

An excellent growing season allowed for a real comeback in the region following two years of disastrous crop losses from extreme winter cold, spring freezes and a terrible hail storm in 2014-15. Most vineyards produced full crops with excellent maturity. Conditions were outstanding until late September, when a few weeks of rainy weather resulted in a flush of powdery mildew and cluster rots on very susceptible varieties. Still, fruit was plentiful, of good quality and harvested earlier than usual due to such a warm summer.

The 2016 growing season started with an early and mild spring with no threats of frost after bud break. The summer was very warm and dry, but occasional rains were timely to keep growth rolling along. Degree-day accumulations were well above normal, leading to early véraison and rapid fruit maturation until conditions changed in late September. No fall frosts occurred before the completion of harvest.

During the early and middle portions of the growing season fungal disease pressure appeared to be very light. The late-season explosion of powdery mildew showed we had some early development of powdery mildew that was not well detected. Birds and wasps were very bad problems during harvest.

Even though we had high yields, the prices were not significantly affected due to the great demand for fruit following the bad crop losses in 2014-15.

Some wineries did experience a shortage of tank space due to the heavy crops in many vineyards. Early ripening was actually a big problem, as it was still warm enough for very high levels of wasp and bee activity during harvest—presenting both worker hazard and injuries to the fruit.

It looked like a wonderful year for Pinot Noir fruit quality until the rainy weather at the end of September led to cluster rots. It will still be a good vintage for this variety, we were just hoping for even better.


David Scurlock
Viticulture outreach specialist
The Ohio State University/OARDC

The 2016 grape harvest will be a vintage-type year. Both yield and quality were above average with excellent sugars balanced with moderate to low acids. The 2015-16 winter was extraordinarily kind with only one day below 0° F near Valentine’s Day. Spring 2016 was slightly below the long-term weather average in precipitation, temperature and growing degree-days through June. July through November were drier and warmer, providing an excellent ripening period. Rainfall during the harvest period was beneficial with timely amounts and contributed to the overall yield and quality.

Disease pressure was normal early in the spring with normal rainfall and cooler temperatures. We had some isolated issues with phylloxera, spotted wing drosophila, Japanese beetle and grape berry moth. We had limited damage in the eastern half of Ohio from the 17-year cicada.

Grape prices have really not changed much over the years, but demand was strong this year in response to the low yields in 2014 and 2015, so premium prices were obtained accordingly. Most growers across the state were pleased with both yields and quality of their grapes this year.

Labor availability, affordability and reliability is always an issue in a labor-intense field such as grapegrowing. Machines to mechanize are available to do almost any vineyard task now, but they are too expensive to own for the average vineyard in Ohio.

Ohio has great diversity in its growing regions, ranging from 3,500 growing degree-days along the Ohio River to an average 2,600 growing degree-days in the Lake Erie region. This allows us to grow long-season reds in the south and excellent cool-season vinifera in the north.


Harry Flynn, Ph.D.
Dos Cabras Vineyards

Oklahoma red grape yields and quality were generally very good. White yields in the central part of the state were reduced from 2015. Cooler September weather allowed a good balance of Brix, TA and pH to develop if the vineyards were protected from predators.

The weather was relatively mild by our standards, with only a day or two breaking the 100° F mark in the central part of the state. The weather broke about mid-September, allowing a comfortable harvest in late September/early October, though with occasional rains slowing things at times.

Pest pressure seems to climb every year; birds, raccoons, squirrels, deer can be devastating to the state’s relatively small vineyards. Netting seems to be the only sure detractor. Some aphids and hoppers, green beetle damage appeared to be limited this year compared to 2014-15.

Pricing appeared to be stable. Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling yields were good; Pinot Gris, Norton and Concord lower. Whites in general appeared to have lower yields than 2015. Zinfandel yields also were good.

Early drip irrigation prior to bud break in a year with dry spring weather seemed to be beneficial in promoting cluster formation.

Summer 2016 was relatively dry. Drip irrigation was a must. Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling yields in the central part of the state were probably the best we’ve seen in 10 years. Insect damage was minimal compared to earlier years. Adherence to a rotating schedule of fungicides up to véraison resulted in minimal fungal damage.


As the harvest came to an end in the southern United States, Fritz Westover, owner of Westover Vineyard Advising and consultant for many wineries and vineyards in the region told Linda Jones McKee of Wines & Vines (who provided a separate report on Pennsylvania’s harvest on page 132 of this feature) that rain hit the Gulf Coast and Hill Country near Fredericksburg throughout the season, increasing the rate of black rot and downy mildew. “It was very wet, and that made maintaining spray programs challenging,” he said. “The best sites did that, and the quality was very good.”

The Hill Country enjoyed a mild winter with little freeze damage, but those warmer temperatures heightened Pierce’s disease pressure. The High Plains AVA suffered hailstorms in late June and July, followed by rain after véraison. Even growers who did manage to spray suffered some issues from rot.

The collaborative marketing group Texas Fine Wine, which includes Bending Branch Winery, Brennan Vineyards, Duchman Family Winery, Pedernales Cellars and Spicewood Vineyards, reported that its members expected to produce their best crop in several years. “The 2016 vintage is shaping up to be one of the best crop yields, and weather conditions are right where they need to be to have a stellar vintage,” said Dave Reilly, winemaker at Duchman Family Winery.

Dr. Bob Young, owner of Bending Branch Winery, said the spring weather led to a wide variation in wine grape yields across the state. “Several of our vineyard partners are having a great growing season thus far with our signature red wine grapes Tannat, Petite Sirah and the up-and-coming varietal Souzão,” Young said. “Other vineyards have been hit by hail, and Hill Country vineyards have experienced fungal pressure, including at our estate, after continuous heavy rains earlier this season.”



Hans Walter-Peterson
Viticulture extension specialist
Cornell Cooperative Extension

The grape crop in the Finger Lakes was a bit below average this year. Much of this can be attributed to the extreme drought conditions that persisted through much of the season, which reduced berry size almost across the board. Lack of rain, however, meant that disease pressure was lighter than usual, reducing the amount of fruit discarded due to rot. Acidity was generally lower than usual due to a warm growing season. Sugar accumulation was hindered in some cases due to water stress, but overall impressions are that quality is very good. Years like this tend to be especially good for production of red wines in the Finger Lakes.

The Finger Lakes experienced the driest season anybody can remember. Normal rainfall averages were just above 3 inches per month during the growing season, but by mid-August this year we had received only 5 inches total. Very few vineyards in the Finger Lakes have irrigation, so some symptoms of water stress were visible in most vineyards. Rainfall increased somewhat by the end of August, helping to improve vine health during ripening.

Disease pressure was light for most of the season due to the lack of rainfall. Some growers were able to reduce spray applications by almost half before rains returned in September and October. Heavier rain in October brought late-cluster rots in some vineyards, but still less than most years.

According to price lists provided by the industry, average prices for most varieties increased in 2016. Vineyards are still recovering from winter injury sustained in the past three years, so wineries are still having trouble filling their needs, especially for Riesling and Cabernet Franc.

Alice Wise
Cornell Cooperative Extension

Overall, yields were slightly higher than normal on Long Island, particularly for Merlot. Quality was very good, with clear expression of varietal character over a range of Brix. Regardless of the Brix, acids were on the low side, likely due to the summer heat.

After a cool spring, the summer was hot and dry, requiring growers to irrigate vineyards with sandier soils. It is now very common for the regions to have an extended period of hot, dry weather in summer. In early October, Hurricane Matthew threatened the East Coast but fortunately veered out to sea and did not impact the northeast. Harvest proceeded as per usual, though temperatures dipped below normal in October.

Early summer rainfall started up some downy mildew that persisted all season. Fortunately, most infections were confined to the top of the VSP canopy, something that is not unusual in a maritime climate. There was some Botrytis in susceptible varieties at harvest.

Because leafing the cluster zone by hand is one of the most expensive practices, several growers invested in cluster zone leafing machines. This is a significant investment for the small businesses on Long Island.


Dr. Kevin Ker
Research associate
Brock University–CCOVI

Harvest was very good this year as crop levels (69,700 tonnes, or 76,831 tons) rebounded from 2015 (53,250 tonnes or 58,698 tons). The Niagara region, the largest grape-producing area in Ontario, had good production in all cultivars despite an almost drought-like growing season. Some areas had less tonnage than expected due to dry conditions, and some vineyards also has lower Brix than hoped. Overall though, things were very good, and vines are in good shape heading into winter 2016-17.

This was an incredibly dry season with precipitation around 50% of normal during the growing season with rains coming late in the season and past harvest for many cultivars. Also, it was unseasonably warm with more than 40 days above 30° C (86° F), while normal is around six days above 30° C. In some cases, it was so hot that vine development stopped and did not resume until things cooled down. For this reason, some vineyards had lower than expected Brix despite high growing degree-days.

Mites were more numerous in 2016 than other years, a reflection of hot, dry conditions. Other pests were easily managed and no significant problems developed.

Optical sorters on harvesters were used at some locations with good results. There was more interest in trickle water systems in the area due to drought.

No major logistical issues came up other than scheduling to avoid inclement weather during harvest. It was a typical season in Ontario.

As usual, no major challenges for most cultivars. Late-season reds harvest and scheduling is always being reviewed and managed. Grapes left for ice wine were in good shape and awaiting proper conditions for picking.


Linda Jones McKee
Wine East

Pennsylvania’s grape harvest varied in quality and quantity, depending on the location of the vineyard within the state and the attention to detail such as spray schedules by the grower. Some called 2016 “the perfect harvest,” while others reported it was “pretty challenging.” In dry regions, berries were smaller in size until some rain arrived in August, but then yields were reduced if sprays were not applied in a timely fashion. The warm nights in the southeast region resulted in slower ripening, and high humidity levels increased the disease pressure. Overall, both quantity and quality should be good, especially in the red varieties.

After a milder winter, summer temperatures were very warm across Pennsylvania, both during the day and at night. The northwest around Erie and throughout the mountain region were very dry from May through July, but rain occurred sporadically in August and into September. The southeast was hotter with more humidity, and September remained warm during the day but was cooler at night. Fortunately, hurricanes were not a major factor this harvest.

Humidity in the southeast and late-season showers caused some pressure from botrytis as well as downy and powdery mildew. Growers with effective spray programs had fewer disease problems. As for insects, Japanese beetles were a concern in some areas early in the season, especially on Concord vines.

Denise Gardner, an enology extension specialist at Penn State, noted that more Pennsylvania wineries are using flotation to help clear juice and ultimately to improve the quality of the wine.

Gardner also reported that she is seeing trends of producing more Grüner Veltliner and dry rosé. In addition, the popularity of cider has increased the interest in sparkling wine produced by carbonation rather than traditional methode champenoise techniques.


Tremain Hatch
Viticulture research
and extension associate
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Virginia had excellent wine quality potential for early and mid-ripening varieties. Crop levels were inconsistent across the state. Warm temperatures in April advanced bud development and were followed by freezes in April that caused some frost injury on early budding varieties. Cool and wet weather in May led to disease and canopy-management challenges. Warm and dry conditions in late summer helped growers harvest very clean fruit. A week of rain in late September challenged growers with compromised fruit and stalled ripening.

Higher than normal fungal disease pressure occurred in early May because of cool and wet weather.

Early season freezes led to some crop reduction, particularly with early budding varieties in the central and southern portions of the state.

Like 2015, growers faced prolonged rain events in late September. In some cases, growers picked tremendous quantities of fruit before the rains.

Quality was excellent for early and mid-ripening varieties. Later ripening varieties benefited from sorting due to inconsistent fruit quality.

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