TWEED — Ontario’s grape production was expected to drop 50% from last year, although the stories of discontent vary from vineyard to vineyard.
The Ontario Grape Growers was projecting a 42,000 tonne grape harvest this fall, down from the 82,000 tonnes yielded on the province’s 150-plus vineyards in 2021, according to a CBC report focused on the sector’s powerhouse Niagara region, which was hit hardest and was dealing with the impact of poor conditions last winter.
Some Eastern Ontario wineries told Farmers Forum that they were heading into the harvest in somewhat better shape than what the projection might suggest.
Eastern Ontario wineries often grow northern hybrid “cold hardy” grape varieties, as is the case at Potter Settlement Vineyards and Artisan Winery in Tweed. Row upon row of green grape vines conspicuously lacked bunches of grapes in early September.
Employee Amanda Linsdell confirmed there was “very little” to be picked at the 13-acre vineyard this year, following last year’s abundant crop.
“Apparently, it was a bumper crop for most people last year, so this year it’s almost as if the vines are kind of resting,” Linsdell said, also attributing the decline to “incredibly wet” conditions in the early spring, which was followed by a sudden freeze.
“We spent a lot of time cutting the dead tissue off. They’re all looking fine now,” she said. “We’re hoping this winter isn’t too bad so we get a good crop next year.”
Last year’s bumper harvest means that plenty of wine remains available at the Potter Settlement operation.
At Sugarbush Vineyards & Winery in Prince Edward County, co-owner Sally Peck backed up the idea that some vines are taking a rest this year after a very heavy crop in 2021. Peck said her operation of southern varieties were set to produce less than average in 2022. She also blamed it partly on above-freezing periods last winter combined with rainfall that ended up exposing some of the buried vines to the weather.
“Everyone in the county who is seeing decreased yields could probably chalk it up to heavy crop load last year and an erratic winter with lots of rain,” she said.
At nearby Traynor Family Vineyard, assistant winemaker Richard Narayan said the operation was expecting some drop in this year’s grape harvest. Traynor does grow some northern hardy grape varieties, he added, and those vines seemed to have fared better.
Smokie Ridge Vineyard proprietor Paul ‘Smokie’ Leblanc also anticipated a “smaller crop than last year” at his 10-acre vineyard south of Ottawa. Leblanc estimated that he also lost about 200 to 300 vines that died last winter but regrew from the rootstock.
In Morrisburg, Stone Crop Acres Winery & Vineyard co-owner Marc Gervais said his crop didn’t appear to be down from last year. Gervais explained that, as with any crop, a complex series of factors play into yield at any given location. In the case of grapes, that includes cluster bud development the previous fall, overwintering conditions, summer weather, disease load, and bird feeding as the crop ripens.
Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs describes 2022 as a “challenging season” for the province’s grape producers. “The levels of winter injury this year are the result of inadequate cold acclimation of the vines due to weather conditions in the fall,” the ministry explained in a statement to Farmers Forum. “Warm, wet weather conditions in the fall made the vines more vulnerable to cold temperatures and susceptible to winter injury after swings in temperature in November and January.”
OMAFRA has requested that the federal government initiate AgriRecovery support for the wine sector.