CHAUTAUQUA COUNTY, NY - The cold spell has taken on toll on the grapes used to make wine. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer D-NY is calling for relief to help vineyard owners deal with the worst winter since 2004.
In the town of Portland, 21 Brix Winery not only produces wine, but they grow their own grapes. However, there is concern about the future crop. The polar vortex has severely damaged grape buds, vines and some trunks.
Kris Kane manages 21 Brix Winery and expects a limited supply because of a smaller crop. As for prices, "we're thinking about that, it's certainly a concern, how do we make inventory last, but I don't think it does us any justice to raise prices, we're going to have to grin and bear it for this moment," he said.
A strong wine and grape industry is beneficial to the southern tier's economy. Senator Cathy Young said "agriculture and tourism are the bread and butter or Chautauqua County. We need it to thrive in order to be successful, it's an economic driver for the local economy."
Senator Charles Schumer is calling on the U.S.D.A. To provide relief for vineyards who suffered major crop damage from the extreme weather this winter.
He wants owners reimbursed. Under the Tree Assistance Program, commercial vineyards that lose trees are eligible for 65% reimbursement of the cost of replanting. The Senator also wants the U.S.D.A. To approve a disaster declaration immediately if requested. Such a measure would provide emergency low-interest loans for growers who suffer extensive bud damage but not trunk damage.
Cornell Cooperative Extension experts have an early damage assessment, suggesting 50% of the vinifera grape buds could be damaged. This would also suggest that the vine damage is high.