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Western Colorado vinyards may have a down year

Sharon Sullivan
Vail, CO, Colorado

There’s a reason why vineyards on Colorado’s Western Slope don’t appear quite as orderly or pretty as they typically do this time of year.

Many grape growers are delaying pruning this spring to see what survived the long and especially cold winter – and the frost that occurred about a little more than a week ago.

This winter it got so cold that there was significant bud damage, said state viticulturist Horst Caspari, who tends grapes at the Colorado Agricultural Experiment station on Orchard Mesa.



Grape buds are breaking about two weeks behind schedule, Caspari said.

Many growers “made adjustments in pruning,” said Caspari, who had just returned from a tour of valley vineyards earlier this week.



“We thought a number of vineyards would be so badly damaged,” he said. “It looks like, at the present time, the overall damage is less than we thought (it would be) previously.”

Still, some growers lost 100 percent of this year’s crop, while others suffered minimally.

Talbott Farms grows 120 acres of grapes – most likely the largest grape grower in the state, said owner Bruce Talbott.



“We have a reduced crop, but it still should be a pretty decent crop,” Talbott said.

A bumper 2009 crop will help fill the void created in 2010.

“Wine trails by six months to five years,” Talbott said. “The 2010 vintage will be smaller than the previous two or three years.”

While the Riesling grapes fared well, many other varieties, like Merlot didn’t do as well, Talbott said.

Carlson Vineyards Winery survived the fall frost and cold weather fairly well, although grapes were down about 25 percent, said owner Parker Carlson.

“The last couple of days of cold weather we probably lost another 25 percent,” Carlson said.

“Many of the vineyards we buy from are 100 percent gone,” he said. “The Chardonnays were hit pretty hard.”

Other vineyards around the state were not hit as hard as those in the valley, Carlson said.

Carlson said he doubts the crop damage will affect prices.

“We’ll make more fruit wine this year. Fruit is in pretty good shape,” he said.


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