Wineries Recover from Harsh Weather

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By Sam Jones
By Benjy Jeffords

UNION COUNTY — This year's unusual weather has taken its toll on local vineyards.


Southern Illinois wineries are popular with tourists and locals. However, the bitter cold we saw last winter and our wet spring, have hurt this year's grape crop.


There's tissue and bud damage on many of the grape vines. After harvest, the vineyards will know exactly how much the crops were affected. Until then, they're prepared for anything.


The good news is, crops at Von Jakob Vineyard are growing. They’re slowly ripening through the summer months before harvest this September and October. The bad news: Owner Paul Jacobs expects to lose 25 percent of them.


“If you have a smaller crop, you do have to produce a bottle that's a little more expensive. Most times we just absorb it and worry about it the next year,” Jacobs explained.


Thanks to the harsh winter and wet spring, employees like Frank Wesseln are out inspecting the vines every day, with cautious optimism.


“[With] high humidity, you have things like black rot to look out for, but we've tried to stay very judicious and stay on top of our sprays and everything to keep it under control,” said Wesseln.


They'll bring in grapes from nearby states to help, but Jacobs hopes to never have a winter like the last one.


“Worst winter ever. We've been doing this 18-19 years. It was hard for people to get out of their driveways, less out on the highways,” Jacobs added.


Not only were crops damaged, but business took a hit too.


“They closed more this winter than they have ever since they been opened,” Wesseln explained.


The bright side; it could've been much worse. They were spared a bigger loss since their crops are at a higher elevation than many others.


“Keeps us 10, 5 degrees warmer, so it makes a big difference in the winter,” said Jacobs.


It's a balancing act, a gamble for wineries all across Southern Illinois.


“You just deal with whatever you're handed and you just squeeze those things and make wine,” he enthused.


Vineyards are taking proactive measures by spraying the crops to protect them. The next variable is how much rain we get before harvest. Too much will dilute the sugar levels in those grapes.

Marion Regional
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