Vines Damaged but Wine Industry Healthy

Vines Damaged but Wine Industry Healthy
WINE COUNTRY -- Earlier this week, a bank foreclosed on a Walla Walla Winery, so Action News wanted to know if this is rare, or a sign of bigger trouble? While exploring the question, we found out the industry is as healthy as ever, but grape growers are facing a challenge.

The harvest this past fall set a record with 160,000 tons of grapes picked from the vine, but it was cut short by an early freeze in November.

"Pretty early to have a freeze of this caliber so there is a lot of damage out there," says Todd Newhouse who runs Washington's oldest vineyard.

Growers all over the state are now having to go through their vineyards block-by-block to check for damage. They slice the top of the bud off, if the inside is green, it's good to go, if it's black there's a problem.

Newhouse says the damaged vines mean quite a bit of extra work, and while this is not good news for growers, he says it shouldn't affect grape prices.

"For the most part growers are going to make up for what they lost in pruning so I think wineries are still going to get their fruit."

While the vines may not be as healthy as usual, Newhouse says the industry is. We asked his thoughts on the recent winery closing in Walla Walla.

"I've heard of a couple this past year that closed. I think you're going to see that in any business especially during a recession. But I think for every winery that's closed this year there's also been one that's started up, if not two that's started up".

The Washington Wine Commission says the number of wineries is actually up, to a total of more than 700 wineries in the state.

On another good note: Newhouse says it's easier to sell higher-priced bottles now than it was six months ago. But he still expects wineries to offer more lower priced bottles as the nation works its way out of the recession.

"I think moving wine right now is important even if you have to get a little less price for it just to keep your wine on the shelf and in the marketplace."

While there may be hard times at some individual wineries, and the cold weather was tough on growers, overall the current business climate could mean lower prices for you.