Freezing temps could be good for Missouri grapes

A mid-Missouri winemaker says this winter's record cold temperatures could forecast a good grape harvesting season.

With much of mid-Missouri in the midst of yet another freeze. Winemaker Cory Bomgaars of Les Bourgeois Vineyards said his staff is paying extra attention to their vines.

"Our major concern is what they call winter dieback," Bomgaars said. "That's when you can actually lose the buds that have the fruit in them for next year. So, anything that we lose over the winter could potentially mean we don't have a crop next year."

Bomgaars said despite popular misconceptions, the artic temperatures that have resulted from weather systems like the polar vortex that moved into Missouri in January can actually be beneficial for certain types of grapevines.

"Icing on the vines can be beneficial because if we get a temperature drop like we will this evening, they'll kind of have a little blanket, they're insulated," Bomgaars said. "It's really super dry temperatures that we're concerned about, because those temperature suck the moisture out of our vines and can lead to plant loss."

Right now, the vineyards at Les Bourgeois have only seen a 10% dieback due to winter. Bomgaars said 90% of their vines are doing just fine and will sprout grapes when the temperatures warm up. He said the small dieback is typical for even a very cold winter, and spells a good forecast for a crop important to mid-Missouri's economy.

Although the grapes at Les Bourgeois are doing well, Bomgaars said not every vineyard across mid-Missouri is having the same luck.

"The common European varieties like Cabarnet and Chardonnay, those are a lot more tender. So anything above negative five degrees, you can start getting plant loss on those varieties."

Bomgaars said other growers in mid-Missouri that grow plants of the more tender variety have reported significant dieback from the freezing temperatures. However, he also said most growers in mid-Missouri have vines that can withstand cold. Bomgaars said whatever the groundhog decides Sunday, he'll be happy.

"We do better in our business when it's nicer in the spring, but on the grape growing side if we have a longer, colder spring, it actually keeps the buds from popping out too early," Bomgaars said. "You know, we think we're gonna have a good year this year, we always do."