[MUSIC PLAYING] I'm Paul King. I do most of the vineyard management, and most of the winemaking, and all of the distilling here at Six Mile Creek Vineyard. And I've been here for almost 25 years. I have that tendency, as others do that have lived a long time in the same place, to say, well, the winters aren't as cold. We're not getting as much snow. And I really believe that do be true. We pay pretty close attention here at Six Mile Creek Winery because in addition to being a winery, we do have an active vineyard.
If we talk about climate change, a longer growing season and a little hotter weather will ripen the fruit more dependably. There are some varieties, and I can give you two or three examples, Pinot Noir is little futzy, Merlot for sure, Cabernet Sauvignon, and to a lesser degree Chardonnay. I think these are varieties that will benefit.
Maybe pretty soon you'll be seeing Finger Lakes vineyards attempting to grow things like Zinfandel, with very long hot-season requiring varieties. But even though globally warming climate in a very general sense would help us, it really was part of the problem. Not this year, but for us, part of the problem last year. And that really, really warm winter that we had, temperatures barely reached zero degrees. And the spring was fully three weeks earlier.
And our bud break was three weeks earlier. And then we got a just sort of average cold temperature. But our buds are at their most sensitive point. And we had 80% bud loss last year, not because of minimum cold temperatures but because the season was so early. And we were thinking we would have an absolute record year, with maybe 28 or 29 tons of grapes of this 5 and 1/2 acres. And then, we got just a modest excursion down to 29 degrees and it killed most of the buds.
So that's global climate change for you. That's a part of it that rears its ugly head. Just when you think you could be growing longer season varieties, then you get this kind of warm winter, which is unusual here, and early bud break, and then just sort of average cold and it takes all your buds.
The best management option for any individual vineyard to deal with increasingly varying weather, if we talk about climate change, would be to think carefully about the varieties that they're growing. That's really the biggest management strategy. Because everything else you're doing is then a little bit of sort of a stopgap. Is there a trellis system that can best help you? Is there a pruning system that can help you in bad weather? These are all responses really.
Wind turbines help in only very specific weather conditions. They don't help with minimum low temperatures. There's a few times where very calm conditions are set up and there's a steep gradient between the temperatures at the surface and just a few hundred feet in the air. And in these situations, mixing up that layer can help a lot. But they're pretty specific weather conditions and it's a pretty costly investment.
So this kind of thing, again, is a sort of a management decision. And it has a lot to do with how much acreage you have, the potential cost of your acreage, and how many of these sorts of conditions occur at your site.
At our site, they're not quite as common. It's not a flat ground. We've got a lot of slope. And we get cold air drainage. You have to pay attention to that. But it definitely should be a part of a vineyard's management strategy.
You need to grow the varieties that you can grow well. And that's what you need to do. That is especially true at Six Mile Creek. But it's also true for any of the other vineyards.
Last winter was a particularly cold one. And it's really interesting. I think the minimum low temperature in Ithaca is still probably minus 23 degrees Fahrenheit or so.
We didn't really approach that. But what we did see here were lots of excursions to minus 14 minus, minus 15, minus 16 degrees. And that is a very, very critical temperature. You're going to get significant bud loss right around that threshold.
What is that going to have on the quality and quantity of wine grapes that are grown in the region? And certainly at Six Mile Creek Vineyard, we have lost most of the Reisling fruit that we had here. Because it was a regional event, not just local to this valley, for example, it's going to have some pretty serious effects.
I anticipate that Reisling is going to be in high demand. The price is certainly going to go up. And whether or not vendors like ourself, that don't have an overcapacity and tend to sell extra, can get what we need will be a question. It's an agribusiness. You have to pay attention to the weather. It's critical.
And here, it means pulling out varieties like Chardonnay. We're not going to grow it any more. As compared with our Seyval, a hybrid, where we have virtually a full crop.
There is a limitation now. There is a lack of name recognition in some of these hybrids. There are still people that come into the vineyard to this day and they see our Seyval Blanc. And they say, well, that sounds a lot like Sauvignon Blanc. But is that a Sauvignon Blanc? And, well, it's not a Sauvignon Blanc. It's a completely different variety.
It's my personal favorite I get six ton per acre even here. It's disease resistant. It's one of the first grape varieties to ripen. It's a beautiful grape variety. It's just relatively unknown.
But I think the people that I know that most enjoy wine really like trying new wines. So there's a huge, huge outlet out there for exploring some of the new hybrids. They're great varieties. It's one of the Finger Lakes fortes. In the long run, that's going to serve to help us.
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Paul King, farm manager of Six Mile Creek Vineyard in Ithaca, NY discusses how the changing climate is affecting grape and wine production. Six Mile Creek Vineyard is a small vineyard in Ithaca started in the 1970s that produces both wine and spirits. The Climate Smart Farming vVideos are produced by the Cornell Institute for Climate Change and Agriculture (CICCA) and ConservationBridge.