VIDEO: Local Vineyards Take a Beating During Deep Freeze

When the polar vortex went through most of us hibernated and stayed inside until the temperatures rebounded while local winery owners were in the fields hoping it wouldn't be as bad as the forecast, but it was.

CTV Windsor's Michelle Maluske caught up with Tom O'Brien at Coopers Hawk Winery in Colchester for a better look at the damage Mother Nature unleashed on local vineyards.

O'Brien says temps below -22C kill the vines' buds and it was too windy to turn on the warming fans — so what's a farmer to do?

"We just have to cope with whatever Mother Nature throws at us, open my best bottle of merlot and have a nice glass of wine while I watched the weather kill my buds," he says. "We'll probably have anywhere between 30% and 70% damage."

A best guess isn't good enough for O'Brien though. He wants to be certain about their losses so they cut 10 shoots from every grape variety. 

As O'Brien suspected, hearty vines like riesling handled the cold. 

"What we're doing now is the process of shaving off the covering for the buds. If we have half the buds are lost, we need to leave on twice as many buds when we prune and tie down, so we get a crop that justifies for the year," says O'Brien.

As expected, Merlot didn't fair very well for the second year in a row.

O'Brien says they'll prune those vines right back and hope for warmer temps next winter — but he says merlot drinkers shouldn't panic.

"We will not have merlot [grapes] this year, we did not have merlot last year, but we have a lot of merlot in bottles and a lot in tanks, so consumers are still going to get what they want," he added.

Next week, researchers from Brock University will be here, they'll do their own bud tests and then advise all EPIC Winery owners about which varieties are a write-off and which ones have been saved.

— with files from CTV Windsor's Michelle Maluske.