TREMPEALEAU, Wisconsin (WXOW) – The leaves are green and the grapes are succulent at Elmaro Vineyard in Trempealeau. But it hasn't always been like this.
"It's been an extremely challenging year," says Elmaro winemaker Laura Roessler.
"Starting out in March we had several weeks of that nice, warm temperatures so it fooled the vines into thinking it was spring. And then April hit, and it was a normal April and we got frost and lost some of the grapes then, about 15%."
And this was followed by week after week of intense drought over the summer months. Many of the vineyards younger plants became dangerously stressed.
"When we started to see the leaves still yellow we started dropping clusters off of them, taking the majority of all the grapes off of them ourselves," says Roessler. "Because they'll spend more time trying to reproduce with those grape clusters rather than really start putting that energy into growing"
Between the spring and summer losses, Elmaro's younger vines are producing roughly one tenth of their normal yield. But there have been some unexpected advantages.
"This year the downy mildew and powdery mildew, which the grapes tend to get with high humidity has been down compared to other years." Says Todd Roessler, Elmaro's marketing and sales director. "So that's one benefit we've seen. So our preventative maintenance on that has been a little less than in years past."
And there are other, less visible benefits as well.
"It may not be next year, but if 5 or 10 years down the road we see that same drought," says Todd Roessler. "You know, at least we'll be a little more prepared for it. And have a little bit better understanding. Because we're relatively new with the grapes, the grapes are relatively new to this region… I guess if we'd take a positive, it's something we can take with us into the future."
Elmaro is unsure how they will deal with the limited grape supply this year, but their older vineyard should see near normal production. And the grapes that did survive look fantastic and taste even better.
"It's always exciting," says Todd Roessler. "We always expect it to be better than ever. We have some outstanding wine makers here. We have a mother daughter winemaking team, my wife and mother in law. So they're going to work their magic and each year it seems to be improving."
The Vineyard says plentiful snow and a mild winter will help the plants to recover for next season.
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