Virginia vineyards take big hit due to recent weather

Virginia vineyards take big hit due to recent weather

MONTPELIER, VA (WWBT) - Wine tasting rooms have been popular for years, but now, vineyard managers say that more wineries in the state are growing their own grapes instead of buying them.

Last year was one of the best growing seasons on record, but this year could be one of the worst.

James River Cellars took a big hit on its Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer grapes.

"So for those two varieties, best case scenario is half a harvest," said James Batterson, co-owner of James River Cellars. "Half of an expected harvest."

In the fields, it's easy to see why.

Grape vines will continue bud despite weather damage. The primary bud yields the most fruit. Those buds broke in late March due to the 10th warmest March on record for Richmond, about five degrees above average.

Then a couple of freezes in early April that killed the primaries. Most vineyards are looking to secondary buds now and those produce much less fruit. That's the story across the state.

For some of the largest production operations, Chardonnay seems to have taken the biggest hit.

Barboursville Vineyards reports an estimated 35 percent loss in Chardonnay and a 50 percent loss of Nebbiolo.

Trump Wineries say it's lost at least 10 percent loss of its crop. At New Kent Winery, Vineyard Manager Jake Dombroski says their reds actually got it worse than their whites.

"They won't have the flavor that we want," Dombroski explained. "They won't have the flavor that the wine maker wants. They won't even have the density or the size that we should see in a plant."

With the lack of fruit in the early season, the vineyard managers say the next three to four weeks are very crucial weather-wise.  These farmers need dry, warm days to produce their grapes that flavor the wines their customers love.

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