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At Issue: Weather's affect on the wine crop - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

At Issue: Weather's affect on the wine crop

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SOUTH HERO, Vt. -

Back in the mid '90s Dave Lane got a phone call from a friend that would change his life.

"This was my family's land and we thought it was a good idea," he says.

The idea? Use some of his land in the Champlain Islands to start a vineyard. Vines started growing in 1996.

"It was the first commercial vineyard planted in Vermont," he says.

By 2012, Lane and his wife became proprietors of Snow Farm Vineyard in South Hero. They produce about 25,000 bottles of wine per year.

Lane says this number varies from year to year because of the weather.

"We had some tough weather in January and February. We had some really cold temperatures that stayed around for multiple days," he says.

The vines took a beating but...

"We prune our vines very low to the ground which gives us insurance that the vines survive," he says.

And survive they did.

"It was a late spring, which was also good because it gave the vine more time to get ready to send out shoots and then we had a nice dry July," he says.

Grape vines have root systems that extend 8 to 10 feet into the ground, easily reaching the natural aquaphors. As a result, they flourish in dry weather and sunshine.

"That weather reduces disease and also gets really good growth going," Lane says.

Lane says August has featured a little more rain than he'd like to see. They tackle this with a little extra herbicide and fungicide. Plus the vines are kept up to allow air movement through them.

Despite the rain...

"Overall we think we'll have an average to maybe a little above average crop," he says.

Harvesting will start around September 10, which is pretty much on time. But they're not in the clear just yet. Some birds will try to eat ripe grapes. Lane says they're a couple weeks earlier than normal this year.

"A lot of different birds, but a lot of starlings. And what you're hearing now is actually a recording bird in distress, that is telling birds to get out of here and leave," he says.

The birds can devastate a crop in just a couple of days. Lane takes several precautions.

"We put out balloons, fake owls, anything that would deter them," he says.

Then of course there's netting.

"I'm placing the netting over the grapes basically just as a deterrent," he says.

All of these efforts help protect the grapes from birds. And as long that the weather cooperates over the next few weeks, plenty of wine will be had.

Lane also says that the sunny, dry weekends that we've been having have been good for business. His sales are up this season.

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