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Extreme cold will affect grape yields

By David Pattenaude, Petrolia Topic

Recent extreme cold will reduce yields for Ontario wine grape growers in 2014.

Marc Alton, of Alton Farms Estate Winery in Plympton-Wyoming, says "2014 will be challenging with the recent -25 degree C temperatures. The cold will have killed the buds, or at least damaged many of the plants. So we will likely have some reduced tonnages across Ontario."

However, Alton, co-owner of Lambton County's only grape winery with wife Anne, said on Jan. 13 "We are very happy with our inaugural retail year in 2013. We sold out of most of the 2011 vintage much faster than we anticipated, and have had great response to the 2012 vintage wines as well."

Alton said his winery had a higher tonnage of grapes last year, mainly due to new acres coming online.

"We prune fairly heavily each year to keep production volumes low and quality up," he said. "The cooler, wetter year actually caused us to lose some tonnage to rot, as we try to grow sustainably. Hence, we may not always use pesticides to keep diseases under control."

Alton Farms Estate Winery introduced a few new wines in the later part of 2013 which seem to be well received. And it tripled its production volume from 2012 to 2013. This, combined with lots of "word of mouth" advertising, should lead to a good sales year in 2014, said Alton.

He added his winery is working on a few special events, and hopes to be part of Open Doors Lambton County on June 21 and 22; plus some local food events and festivals again this year.

Meanwhile, Ontario wine producers harvested the biggest grape crop in the province's history last year.

"It was a pretty good one," said Niagara grape grower Bill George, chairman of Grape Growers of Ontario.

The 2013 crop is valued at $99.7 million, up from $88.6 million in 2012 and came in at 79,756 tonnes.

More than 97% of the Ontario grape crop is used for wine.

George said wet weather helped boost production in many of Ontario vineyards by 20 to 25%.

Production has also been increased with new vineyards established along the north shore of Lake Erie, Prince Edward County and in the Collingwood area.

Grape Growers of Ontario estimates 14,000 people work in the province's grape and wine industry. Ontario has 500 grape growers and 17,000 acres of vineyards.

- With QMI Agency files.


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