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County wineries thriving in a dry summer

By Tyson Leonard

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BELLEVILLE (08/15/12) Despite the drought in the Qunite area Prince Edward County wine producer Nicole Marcon from Casa-Dea Estates Winery says the grapes haven't suffered. Photo by Gail Paquette

Wineries in Prince Edward County are predicting an exceptional year and it’s partly due to the dry weather.

“I think (this year) should be pretty incredible,” said Mackenzie Brisbois, manager at Norman Hardie vineyards.

While most other farms in the area have been struggling to keep their crops alive, Norman Hardie vineyards is hoping for more dry weather.

“So long as we have really nice dry conditions going forward, then we are definitely in line to be at one of our most exceptional harvests. If that’s the case across the country then we should really see an excellent product produced in 2012,” said Brisbois.

This summer has been exceptionally dry across Ontario. Crops like corn and soy are producing much less than normal.

Mackenzie said better wine means more tourism for the county.

“Every year that you’re making better wine is going to increase tourism, and put Canada more on the map as a wine region,” said Brisbois.

Mackenzie said grapes have been doing well because they need much less water than most crops. The colder than normal temperatures during ripening in August are also helpful for the grapes.

“The dry conditions have been nerve-racking just in terms of management and watching the actual weather, but we’re not like other crops in that we need as much rain to thrive,” said Brisbois.

“Where we are right now is we have really nice small berries and very small clusters, so if anything we just have less vigor, which is really not such a bad thing in wine making.”

Debbie Zimmerman, C.E.O of Grape Growers of Ontario, said the quality of grapes this year should be exceptional if the good weather conditions continue.

“While tonnage may be down the quality is going to be exceptional,” said Zimmerman.

Zimmerman said the dry weather is good for the grapes but a little bit of rain is necessary.

“Grapes don’t like to be stressed though, so going too long without water causes some stress,” said Zimmerman.

Grape vine roots go deep enough to find more moisture. This makes them a more stable crop.

“2007 would have been the last year to be this dry, but it wasn’t this hot,” said Zimmerman.

Even the early frost in April didn’t affect the grapes.

“When we had that early frost at the end of April our vines were quite fine because we hadn’t taken them out of the ground yet, they were still buried. So we were not affected by that frost,” said Brisbois.

Mackenzie said bottles of riesling and pinot grigio should be on the shelves by early spring next year. chardonnay and pinot noir could take anywhere from one to two and a half years to fully produce.

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