The climate in the Finger Lakes area can be ideal for grapes but is not without some risk. Extended sub-zero temperatures during the winter can damage buds on vines. Just a few degrees can make a huge difference. Some wineries on the northern end of Seneca lake lost 75% or more of their crop during record low temperatures this weekend while other farms at higher or lower elevation fared better.
James Nocek from Anyela's Vineyards in Skaneateles said temperatures below -5 degrees can cause problems for his buds.
"We were down to -18 here recorded.and therefore - you're concerned not only about the buds but also the crop you may not have," said Nocek.
Nocek and his staff buried most of the vines on his 24 acres to protect and insulate them. Freezing temperatures can cause a vine's trunk to split and essentially destroy it. Nocek has been monitoring a few test vines he left out and is hopeful his season will be saved.
"This is labor intensive, it is expensive but in some years it can pay off and we're hoping it pays off this year," said Nocek.
Many Finger Lakes wineries say this has been the worst winter in 10 years. Luckily, they are coming off four great seasons of outstanding grape production. The real test will be in mid-may when farmers will be able to see if vines were permanently damaged.
"One year is not too bad, we can get by. But if there's a lot of dead vines, we'll have a little more of a challenge after that," said Nocek.
The price for a bottle of New York State wine is unlikely to go up in the short term since many wineries had banner years in 2012 and 2013.