Polar Vortex jeopardizes Minn. grape harvest

NORTH BRANCH, Minn. -- Just when you thought the polar vortex was a distant memory, it throws a post season sucker punch with Minnesota grape growers reporting a severe harvest shortage.

"All of the vineyards north of the metro are either showing a 100 percent loss or near 100 percent losses for all of their grapevines," Minnesota Grape Growers President Irv Geary said Wednesday.

Grape growers from Minnesota to New York are pained because the vines aren't producing the fruit critical to creating the sweet child of wine.

"Certainly in our young grape industry, it was probably the roughest winter we've seen," University of Minnesota horticulture professor Jim Luby said.

It is unclear just what nasty old man winter did that was so devastating because the grape varietals the 50 wineries use in Minnesota are designed to take the chill, but they guess it was the prolonged freezing that ravaged vines to produce a tiny fraction of what they should.

At Wild Mountain Winery in Forest Lake, Geary says they will only harvest about 6,000 to 7,000 pounds of grapes this fall. In an average year they have about 25 thousand pounds.

That will mean the wine production from local grapes next year will be scarce, and the double whammy is that the fruits are hard to come by everywhere east of Minnesota due to the same winter woes from months ago.

Minnesota Wineries may have to get creative next year and ferment apple or berry wines. Another option is to try and source the few grapes that escaped winter's wrath in other parts of the country.

"That's the big question mark that everybody is going through right now. Where are we going to get fruit and what kind of fruit are we going to be able to get," Geary said.


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