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Climate Change Is Affecting Michigan Wine

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Illustration: IStock/Val_Iva Spring is a fraught time of year for Andy Fles, the vineyard manager for Shady Lane Cellars, a vineyard and winery in northern Michigan’s Suttons Bay. Spring is when bud break happens: when the brown, bedraggled-looking vines burst into greenery. Grape buds break out of the winter vine in delicate shoots and begin the process of producing this year’s vintage of wine grapes. For Fles and other vineyard managers, bud break is a sign of new life, new seasons, and endless possibilities for this year’s vintage.

Bud break usually happens in May, Fles says, depending on heat accumulation. “When that happens, we’re all very nervous because of the frost.” In Michigan, the first few days of warm spring weather are almost inevitably followed by another hard frost — and sometimes several. “Once the green tissue is out, then it’s very susceptible,” Fles says. “It’s not like the leaves on an apple tree that can tolerate below freezing. If we hit 32 [degrees] or below for more than an hour or two, then we’re going to have some damage out there.”

In recent years, bud break has come earlier and earlier. But because the frost often still follows, vintners like […]

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