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Virginia Cooperative Extension -
 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

Viticulture Notes

Vineyard and Winery Information Series:
Vol. 19 No. 1, January-February 2004

Dr. Tony K. Wolf, Viticulture Extension Specialist

Table of Contents

  1. Current situation
  2. 2003 Grape price data
  3. Upcoming meetings

I. Current situation

With the exception of a few growers in the Shenandoah Valley who reported some sub-zero temperatures, temperatures in Virginia vineyards have generally stayed above zero this winter. Low temperatures here in the Winchester area were slightly above zero to about +5 on 10-11 January, with another dip to just above zero on 29 January. This is good news; neighbors to the north in Pennsylvania and Finger Lakes region of New York State (-5 to -12 F) have seen lower temperatures, and are reporting bud injury and some cane/trunk injury, at least in vinifera cultivars.

As always, it's a good idea to evaluate buds and canes for potential cold injury before completing pruning. In particular, look at blocks of relatively cold-tender cultivars that might have been hit by the early October frost of last fall. There are reports of poor wood maturation in some of these vineyards, and poor wood maturation can be associated with a reduced cold hardiness of buds and canes on the wood that does appear to have matured. Bob Pool, viticulturist at Cornell University, has two web-based articles that illustrate well the difference between healthy and cold-injured buds, as well as means of avoiding and compensating for that injury. Visit his site at: and scroll down to "Dealing with winter cold".

Our measures of bud cold hardiness this winter have been reassuring. The temperature required to kill about 50% of a sample of buds in controlled freezing tests in late-January were:

Traminette: -15 to -17 °F
Viognier: -11 to -12 °F
Cab. Franc: -10°F

A re-evaluation of Viognier on 17 February still showed a "median hardiness level" of -9 to -11°F, with ranges on all of these varieties reflecting slight differences in the training system, which was the object of our comparison. Evaluation of bud cold hardiness of our 10 Chardonnay clones as late as 13 February showed a range of hardiness, from -5°F to -11°F, with the lower-yielding clones (e.g., #95 and #96) having superior cold hardiness to the higher-yielding clones such as # 4 and #5.

These are excellent levels of cold hardiness, although they may not necessarily reflect the absolute conditions in your vineyard. Like the 2002-2003 winter, the rather stable, but cold conditions of our current winter are ideal conditions for maintaining vine cold hardiness. Much as we're all looking forward to crocuses and green grass, the lingering snow (Winchester anyway) is a reassuring sign that the vines are still relatively safe from winter cold injury.

Pesticide Spray Guides: Virginia Tech's grape pest management guides for 2004 are currently available. As in previous years, grapes are included in the horticultural crops bulletin. Options for acquiring the new spray guides include ordering through your local Virginia Cooperative Extension Office, or downloading the spray recommendations directly from the web, at

The pesticide spray recommendations provide a comprehensive listing of registered insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides that may be used in the vineyard, as well as guidelines on rates and timing of usage. Knowledge of the pest biology, as well as the environmental conditions that lead to disease, insect damage, or weed competition is also necessary to effectively manage vineyard pests. There are several new fungicides and insecticides listed for 2004.

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In December, we asked 74 winery owners/operators to provide data on prices paid in 2003 for grapes that were purchased from vineyards not directly associated with or owned by the winery. More than half of the wineries provided data, and we extend our sincere appreciation to those who took time to respond to our survey.

We report here the results of that survey only when we had three or more prices for a variety (Table 1). Fortunately, we had 38 responses (51% response rate) and are able to report prices on 14 varieties. Six wineries reported that they did not buy grapes from other vineyards.

Table 1. Prices ($US/ton) paid for Virginia grapes in 2003, as reported by 38 of 74 surveyed Virginia wineries. Average price paid in 2002 is also shown in last column for some cultivars.
  Price per ton ($) in 2003   
 Minimum Maximum Average Number reporting Average 2002 price/ton
Cabernet franc 963 2,800 1,435 19 1,461
Cabernet sauvignon 1,200 3,000 1,458 12 1,484
Chambourcin 650 1,100 875 7 767
Chardonnay 900 2,000 1,326 23 1,366
Concord 500 600 550 3  
Merlot 1,100 1,625 1,411 14 1,500
Petit verdot 1,350 1,500 1,413 4 1,483
Pinot noir 900 1,400 1,167 3  
Riesling 700 1,500 1,117 6 1,121
Sauvignon blanc 1,200 1,600 1,367 3  
Seyval 650 900 763 4 738
Traminette 900 1,000 949 3  
Vidal 600 1,100 759 9 773
Viognier 1,300 2,000 1,509 9 1,683

We hope that the results of this informal survey provide new and aspiring growers with a basis for estimating potential vineyard returns. We quickly point out, however, that the data in Table 1 reflect only the range of prices. They have no direct relationship to the quality of grapes sold, and the average price noted does not necessarily mean average fruit quality. Nor should a grape seller interpret the maximum price as a market-driven point that s/he should negotiate towards. Note that average price lies closer to the minimum than to the maximum.

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II. Upcoming events:

19/21 -- Virginia Vineyards Association annual Technical Meeting. Omni Hotel, Charlottesville, VA. Information at Program topics include viticulture, enology and wine marketing.

21 -- Pruning and Training Clinic sponsored by Maryland Grape Growers Association. University of Maryland Keedysville Research Station. Call Bob White for details. 410.374.3227.

28 -- 53rd Annual Finger Lakes Grape Growers Convention and Trade Show. 8:00 to 4:30 PM, Waterloo Holiday Inn, Waterloo, NY. Contact Finger Lakes Grape Program 315-536-5134 or Registration forms will be posted at

4/5 -- The Michigan Wine Industry Annual Meeting will be held March 4/5 at Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville. Registration details will be available on line by January 10, 2004 at or by calling 517 373-1104.

6 -- Maryland Grape Growers Association Annual Meeting. Howard County Fairgrounds, MD. Theme is Soil Grows Grapes. What Grows the Industry? Visit the MGGA website for more information.

13 -- Grape Expectations - A Viticultural and Enological Symposium. Forsgate Country Club in Jamesburg, NJ. Sponsored by Rutgers Cooperative Extension.

15-18 -- Wineries Unlimited. Host Resort. Lancaster, PA. Sponsored by Vineyard and Winery Management. Program features a wide variety of topics on viticulture, enology and wine marketing. Tasting will feature wines from PA, MD and NJ. Dr. Curtis Ellison is expected to be the keynote speaker on matters of wine and health. A large trade show accompanies the meeting. For more information, visit

18 -- New Grape Grower Workshop in association with Wineries Unlimited. Host Resort. Lancaster, PA. This intensive, full-day overview is directed at people who have just started a vineyard or plan to start a commercial vineyard in the Mid-Atlantic regions. It is team taught by Dr. Tony Wolf (VA Tech), Dr. Joe Fiola (U Md) and Mark Chien (Penn State). It covers all topics associated with developing and operating a commercial vineyard.

25 -- Lake Erie Regional Grape Program Annual Conference. SUNY, Fredonia, NY.

1-2 -- 33rd Annual Wine Industry Workshop. Ramada Inn, Geneva, NY. Information at

14-16 -- Managing Soil Fertility. A three-day intensive short course entitled Managing Soil Fertility will be held April 14, 15 and 16 in Riverhead, NY. Program will feature nationally known agronomist and lecturer Neal Kinsey, who will present a condensed version of his five-day course based on the Albrecht method of soil balancing. This method focuses on the properties of soil health, how to attain balance in your nutrition program and how to use these methods to increase yield and profitability. With increasing pressure on Long Island growers to reduce nitrogen use, it is critical to understand the need for fertilizers and the nuances of their use. Lectures will be held at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, 423 Griffing Ave., Riverhead, NY. For registration information, please contact Alice Wise or Libby Tarleton at 631.727.3595 or via e-mail at Please note there will be no registration the day of the conference.

28-29 -- Pennsylvania Wine Association Annual Meeting. Blair County Convention Center and Courtyard Marriott Hotel. Altoona, PA. Various topics on wine making and marketing and viticulture.

12 -- Maryland Grape Growers Association Summer Field Day. Location to be announced.

21-25 -- Seventh International Symposium on Grapevine Physiology and Biotechnology. UC Davis. Topics include photosynthesis, respiration and carbon relations, water and nutrient relations, stress physiology, temperature responses, cold hardiness physiology, fruit development, genetics and molecular biology. Tentative workshops include climate change and the vine and an update on the International Grape Genome Program. Information at

30-7/2 -- American Society for Enology and Viticulture National Annual Meeting. Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel. San Diego, CA. The 2004 Annual Meeting will feature a variety of presentations representing the latest in research in enology and viticulture. The program will also include invited keynote speakers from around the globe. The 55th ASEV Annual Meeting will include a full trade show and enology and viticulture poster sessions. The Annual Meeting includes a special Brett session and will be preceded by a Soil Environment and Vine Nutrition Symposium.

13-16 -- American Society for Enology and Viticulture Eastern Section Annual Meeting. Roanoke Hotel, Roanoke, VA. Symposium title is "Grapes, Wine and Environment". The focus will be on growing wine in a humid climate with emphasis on soils, mesoclimate and wine production. Technical sessions will feature regional research and projects funded by the Viticulture Consortium. A pre-conference tour of vineyards in southwest Virginia will be offered.

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"Viticulture Notes" is a bi-monthly newsletter issued by Dr. Tony K. Wolf, Viticulture Extension Specialist with Virginia Tech's Alson H. Smith, Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Winchester, Virginia. If you would like to receive "Viticulture Notes" as well as Dr. Bruce Zoecklein's "Vinter's Corner" by mail, contact Dr. Wolf at:

Dr. Tony K. Wolf
AHS Agricultural Research and Extension Center
595 Laurel Grove Road
Winchester, VA 22602

or e-mail:

Commercial products are named in this publication for informational purposes only. Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University do not endorse these products and do not intend discrimination against other products that also may be suitable.

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