Chalk it up to global warming, skillful vineyard management or a combination of the two.
Whatever the reason, winemakers couldn’t be happier with Michigan’s 2007 harvest.
“I thought 2005 was as good as it gets,” said Doug Welsch of Fenn Valley Vineyards near Saugatuck, “but 2007 is at least as good.”
Lee Lutes of Black Star Farms in Suttons Bay echoed the sentiment. “Some of the wines are even better than 2005,” he said.
Red wines fared particularly well, with rich and flavorful Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Merlot leading the way. White wines will also be similar to 2005, with higher alcohol and less acidity than typical Michigan whites. Chardonnay, in particular, will benefit from the long, warm growing season.
The spring got off to an early start, which created problems for many Eastern U.S. fruit growers. Vineyards from Missouri to the Carolinas received a late freeze that damaged winegrape buds newly emerged from winter dormancy.
But Michigan’s “lake effect” saved growers by keeping most varieties in a dormant state until the danger of spring frost had passed.
Plenty of sun and temperatures 10 to 20 percent higher in the main grape-growing regions allowed red winegrapes to fully ripen by harvest time. Southwest vineyards had average to above-average yields, while vineyards in the Northwest saw a slightly below-average yield.
At least three new wineries are scheduled to open this spring, pushing the total number of wineries using predominantly Michigan-grown fruit to well over 50.