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Warming climate attracting Syrah grape growers to Hudson Valley

Oct 22, 2021 2:02 pm

Roger Hannigan Gilson reports in the Times Union that a warming Hudson Valley climate is allowing two wineries to grow a grape variety that typically prefers a more heated environment. The Whitecliff Winery in Greenport in Columbia County, and Rosina's Winery near Middletown in Orange County are both now growing Syrah grapes, first produced in the Rhone Valley in southern France but now in vineyards in Australia, South America, and California. The climate of the Hudson Valley was traditionally been considered too cold for Syrah grapes. "The reason I'm planting Syrah is the belief that this climate will get warmer, and warm enough to ripen up those grapes, similar to what you'd see in the northern Rhone Valley," said Michael Migliore, who operates Whitecliff Winery. Michael Callisto, of Rosina's Winery, is about to harvest his first crop, planted three years ago. "I noticed the weather has changed in the last 30 years," he said. "Certain plants were growing that wouldn't have in the past." The Fourth National Climate Assessment, published in 2018, predicts the Hudson Valley will get warmer but the largest change for the region will be more precipitation, most often in short bursts. Greene County's precipitation totals, for instance, are up six inches from 1980 to 2013, according to Cornell University’s Climate Smart Farming initiative. Annual temperatures in Columbia and Greene counties rose 0.7 degrees from 1980 to 2013. Migliore says Syrah grapes can succeed here now because the growing season is longer. Cornell Climate Smart Farming Initiative viticulturist Jim O'Connell warns that climate change won't help all crops here, as others such as broccoli and lettuce could suffer under warmer conditions. But he agrees about the wineries. "Grape-growers are saying (grape varieties) that couldn't ripen 20 years ago can ripen now," O'Connell said. Read more about this story in the Times Union.