Great Grapes: Windsor-Essex vines are loving the warm fall, and so do vineyard owners

Friday, October 13, 2017

CBC News Windsor


'There’s an old saying when growing grapes for wine, that ‘grapes like dry feet'

This fall's unusually high temperatures are giving Windsor Essex vineyard owners something to celebrate — great grapes and an even better year for wine.

"This year's crop has been wonderful," said Tom O'Brien, founder and owner of Coopers Hawk Vineyards in Harrow. "There's an old saying when growing grapes for wine that 'grapes like dry feet' and we've had virtually a drought here in Essex County for a year."

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O'Brien explained that when the soil is very dry, grapevines dig their roots deeper which makes for bigger, juicier fruit. The warm temperatures this fall have played an important role for red grapes.

"The fact that we have had a lot warmer weather allows us to leave the vines hanging, holding the plants for much more weeks and that has allowed for better fruit development," said O'Brien. 

He said the vineyard has harvested its fruit as late as Dec. 3 when conditions allow for it and he hopes this crop can stay on the vines until November.

At another Harrow vineyard, owner of Oxley Estate Winery, Murray Wilson, is calling this year a "banner year" for grapes.

"I think that this year the red wines are going to have a little more ripeness. They'll be a little fuller and maybe a little bigger in the body," said Wilson.

He added the summer was perfect for growing some of the best grapes the region has seen, after a couple of difficult seasons. 

"We had those two polar vortex years in the past and they were really difficult years to get through and then last year was a really good year but this is a really great year," said Wilson.

Wilson also plans to leave his red grapes on the vine a bit longer to ripen, as long as there is no frost coming anytime soon.

"This industry is really dependent on weather," he said.