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Minnesota Vineyards Hit Hard By ‘Polar Vortex’

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(credit: CBS) Bill Hudson
Bill Hudson has been with WCCO-TV since 1989. The native of Elk Rive...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Isaac Savaryn looks at his losses while surveying row upon row of his Marquette variety of grapes, which grow on a hillside overlooking Lake Waconia.

Despite most of the vines appearing lush and green, they hold half the grape clusters that would be growing in a normal year.

“We had a stretch of about minus 20 for maybe a whole week, and that really, really did a lot of damage to it,” Issac Savaryn said.

Blame the vine damage on last winter’s polar vortex. Brutal and extended cold snaps across the country damaged the grape vines’ primary buds. Those are the buds that would produce this season’s crop.

But with no buds, vineyards can have no grapes.

But Savaryn’s Sovereign Estate Vineyard and Winery is faring better than many across Minnesota. Some vineyards can expect to harvest 70- to 90-percent fewer grapes than in a normal season.

“I think we’ll see a spike in production of crops locally,” said vineyard owner Terri Savaryn said.

Still, Savaryn says all isn’t lost. That’s because under state law, Minnesota wineries will be allowed to import grapes from out of state, although it could make wine more costly.

“Any particular variety can have 25 percent of added, other wines to blend with it and still maintain the integrity of that particular variety,” she said.

If all goes well, this summer of rain will turn hot and dry. That will give grapes a chance to grow plump and juicy.

But in this season of challenges, all bets are off.

“If it wasn’t cold weather we could have had a bad hailstorm, so that’s just the nature of farming,” Savaryn said. “It’s not for the faint of heart.”

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