2016 grape harvest may surpass 2015’s bumper crop

While this spring, with its abundant moisture and cool temperatures, has presented several challenges to grape growers, it also has set off speculation this year’s yield might top 2015’s record-setting harvest.

“Last fall’s harvest was the our largest on record and this one may be even bigger, depending on how people adjust their crop load,” said state enologist Stephen Menke at Colorado State University’s Orchard Mesa Research Center. “We really had no winter damage to speak of, so everything looks pretty promising right now.”

The 2015 harvest was a much-needed boost to winemakers around the state after two harsh winter years (2013 and 2014) cut production to about 50 percent of normal.

“Last year’s harvest was the biggest we ever had, both in terms of state-wide production and on a per-acre basis,” said Horst Caspari, state viticulturist at the Orchard Mesa Research Center. “Things look really good right now and I think 2016 could go past 2015 in terms of crop production.”

One factor, said Caspari, is that many acres of cold-hearty varieties planted to resist Colorado’s cold winters finally are old enough to be producing grapes. “Because we have more acres now than we had before, we could end up with more grapes than we had last year,” Caspari said. “Not necessarily a higher yield per acre, although that’s possible, just more acreage producing grapes.”

An example is Whitewater Hill Vineyards on Orchard Mesa, where owners Nancy Janes and John Behr pulled out an acre of underproducing vines and planted St. Vincent’s, a French-American coldhearty hybrid from Missouri.

“We didn’t get very much last year, just enough to make a couple of bottles,” Nancy said. “But this year the vines look great, and I think we might get a whole lot more.”

She also said the mild spring means more buds, especially the productive primary buds, survive to produce fruit.

“Some of the newer growers have never had primary fruit before,” Nancy said. “They won’t believe how much fruit they can get.”

But the season hasn’t been without its downside.

A hailstorm ripped through the Palisade area a week ago, reminding Bennett Price of DeBeque Canyon Winery of a similar, although more-extensive, storm last spring.

“I looked at some vineyards (last year) that were shredded, every leaf ripped off and no fruit left,” Price recalled. “I don’t think this recent one was that bad, but that’s what spring can bring us.”

Price also voiced some concern about powdery mildew, a fungal disease that’s common in more-humid growing regions and is particularly damaging to vinifera grape vines, which include such favorites as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay.

“It’s been such a wet and humid spring, I hope folks are thinking about spraying,” Price said.

Powdery mildew makes plant leaves look as if they are dusted with flour and robs the plant’s nutrients. If serious enough, the disease can kill a plant.

DeBeque Canyon Winery moves: Bennett and Davy Price recently moved their winery and tasting room in Palisade from South Kluge Street to 381 West Eighth Ave. (U.S. Highway 6), the building formerly occupied by the Packing Shed Restaurant.

A new deck greets customers to the tasting room and wine shop. Winemaking facilities will occupy the adjacent building.

Hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday through Monday. Call 464-0550 for information.


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