With recent temperatures in the 50s in the middle of January, grapevines, like the rest of us, think it feels like spring.
That means the sap in the vines, instead of spending most of its time underground, is still flowing through the upper portion of the vine, which could mean an early bud break, according to local vintners like Ann Marie Borghese of n Cutchogue.
Borghese said that in her 13 years of winemaking on the North Fork, she’s never experienced a January as warm as this.
But with the warmth comes with a major danger: If sudden deep freeze hits, the sap will expand and the vines might break.
“If they freeze and crack, that would be a problem,” she said. “That happened at a vineyard up the island a few years ago when they got colder weather than we did — their vines simply cracked off. But we can only hope for the best — you can’t fight mother nature.”
Barbara Shinn, co-owner of in Mattituck, said that she did not expect the sudden cold spell needed to cause that kind of damage to the vine at this point.
“You’d have to have a very warm spell for the sap to be flowing and then have it drop to very cold temperatures over night, and I don’t see those two extremes happening this year,” she said.
Shinn added that any deciduous plant like grapevines don’t go dormant because of cold — they act according to the length of daylight hours, and, with the passing of the winter solstice, she did not expect any sort of early bud break to occur even with the warm weather.
“It think that is more something we’ll have to address in early April,” she said.
Maryann Diliberto, co-owner of tucked away on Manor Lane in Jamesport, said she too was not worried about the unseasonably warm winter.
“I don’t think the weather will have much of an effect. It’s winter and the vines are dormant — we’re not worried about it.”
Shinn added that she experienced a similar January in 2000, when she worked at in Cutchogue — and the following harvest was fine. And, like Borghese, she doesn’t try to question Mother Nature even during a winter that feels like spring.
“She teaches us something every day,” she said.