Winter is long, but always followed by spring. April showers bring May flowers. Weather, or at least weather patterns, are predictable.
And yet, Mother Nature always has a way of mixing things up and keeping us on our toes, and this winter was no different. It started late, next to no snow in the region until almost Christmas, but when it arrived – it arrived with fury. The polar vortex, something we are all familiar with now, brought arctic-like conditions for extended stretches in January and February, offering a fun new twist to winter.
“We did have some cold spells this winter. It [the temperature] got down to the point where we started to be concerned, but it never got to that critical temperature where we would see widespread damage,” says Doug Whitty, President of 13th Street Winery and Whitty Farms.
While most of us are left in awe – or disdain – over the extreme temperatures brought by mother nature, Doug has seen it before and knows what his land needs to thrive.
“Our vines went into the fall in really good health. They were nice and clean, free from disease; we didn’t over-crop, so it was balanced, and the vines were ready for winter,” says Doug. “We made a conscious effort to know our terroir, know our site, know our vines, know our farms and land.”
“We try to narrow our focus and do what we do well and do it consistently and deliver every year,” he says. “We’ve chosen varieties like Gamay, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Riesling that are not as winter-tender as other varieties.”
While he does rely on his experience and what he sees in the vineyards, Doug knows that there is more to know than what he can see. Through the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) at Brock University, he is able to get a better understanding of his vineyard’s health. “We do bud dissections, looking at the bud mortality. Brock is very helpful with that process. So far, the results I’ve seen haven’t been to bad,” says Doug.
As predictably unpredictable as the weather can be, what can be relied on is Doug’s steady hand guiding the vineyard through whatever mother nature has to offer, and to that we raise our glasses. Cheers Doug!