Climate change helps Vt. grape growers - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Climate change helps Vt. grape growers

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SOUTH HERO, Vt. -

Dave Lane has worked the same piece of Vermont his entire life. What used to be a dairy farm is now a lush vineyard, selling 34,000 bottles of wine each year.

He's trying to make Vermont a wine state.

"We definitely are. We already have the best cheese, so we can have some very good wine," said Lane, who owns Snow Farm Vineyard in South Hero.

Thirty years ago, that would have been a fantasy. Winemaker Patrick Barrelet says in those days, the grapes barely survived. But Vermont is getting warmer.

"We definitely have seen bigger crops in, I'd say, the last 10 years," Barrelet said.

And he believes that's because of climate change.

Andy Nash of the National Weather Service says temperatures on this island in Lake Champlain have warmed 2.5 degrees since 1970.

"We're not going to notice one, two or three degrees. But to the plants on a year by year, that means a lot," Nash said.

The trend has allowed the vineyard to add newer grape varieties, which wouldn't have survived here before climate change.

Snow Farm is one of the only vineyards in Vermont growing pinot noir. A couple of cold winters wiped out the crop, but for the past decade-- no problems at all. Not only pinot noir but also Riesling, grapes usually seen along the warmer West Coast.

"They're very cold sensitive and if you don't have a warmer winter, you don't have a crop," Barrelet said.

But it's a tender balance. Snow Farm's greatest pride is its ice wine, a dessert wine made from frozen grapes. If there is no freeze, that award-winning business could wither on the vine.

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