KSN Storm Track 3 Digital Extra: Frigid February impacts Kansas’ grape crop

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Early fall is harvest season for many crops across the state of Kansas. This week we are focusing on our grape crop of a few local vineyards. Grapes can be grown all over the world. Kansas has a climate that allows grapes to thrive under the right conditions.

The fruit flowers and blooms in mid to late spring. This is a touchy time of year as a late frost can destroy the plant early in its growth stage. Grapes need sufficient rain early. However, they can handle a dry summer. Closer to harvest time, grapes actually do not need much water at all. Too much rain and the grape will absorb the water, potentially altering the flavor of the grape and alcohol content of the wine produced. Also, if the winter is too harsh, the vines the grapes grow on could be seriously damaged.

As many of you may remember, we had a harsh cold stretch of weather this past February. The three vineyards I spoke to all said this was a main factor as to why the crop took a hit this year. They say that if temperatures drop briefly for a few hours, the crop fairs fine. Extended stretches of cold weather can do great damage.

The three wineries and vineyards for this Storm Track 3 Digital Extra are pulled from Wyldewood Cellars (Sedgwick County), Grace Hill Winery (Harvey County) and Shiloh Winery (Trego County).

All three locations say the February Arctic air left them with slightly lower yields. Even though the crop took a small hit this year, all three wineries describe their crop as decent to good. Not the best crop ever, but not the worst.

Grace Hill Winery just west of Whitewater typically grows 8 grape varietals, both red and white. The cold snap in February as well as a late April frost hurt their crop a bit. They were optimistic about their red grape yields but the white grapes were just okay. Of all the grapes they use for their wine production, more than 50% are grown on site. They are still in the harvesting process.

Shiloh Winery, which is farther west in WaKeeney, grows 7 grape varietals each year. Their white crop was not all they hoped it would be, but the red varieties are looking good. Overall, they had slight impacts to their numbers this year. They say there are grape types specifically for colder weather climates. It is trial and error to find the ones that grow best in their area. While nature slammed us with a cold snap in February, some damage was also done during a hailstorm which impacted the crop by nearly 10% over the summer. Typically, the farther west you live in Kansas, the lower the humidity through a typical summer. This helps the Shiloh Winery keep disease levels down as humid environments spread disease easier.

Wylewood Cellars is located off of I-35 in Peck heading south towards Oklahoma. They say there are over 8,000 grape varieties world-wide and they have chosen 3 grapes that grow the best in their south central Kansas microclimate. However, due to the frigid cold in February and a late frost, the vineyard’s crop is reduced to about two-thirds of what they normally get. While numbers were impacted, the crop they do have finished out nicely in August. They are fully picked for the season.

Most vineyards will finish harvesting in early October if they have not done so already. There are a few volunteer events with different wineries, like Grace Hill, that take place on the weekends. You can help them harvest and have some fun. All 3 wineries are open for tastings.

-Meteorologist Warren Sears

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