The Mid-May Frost

In the early morning hours of May 18, 2023, the Finger Lakes region experienced an unprecedented frost event. Temperatures got as low as 25 degrees Fahrenheit in some areas, and the cold air persisted for several hours. Widespread damage occurred to fragile young green tissue on our vines, including to the flower primordia that were set to transform into this year’s crop. Damage was as high as 100% at some locations in the region, and a few lucky vineyards experienced little to no damage.


Silver Thread Estate

At Silver Thread’s well-protected site on the edge of Seneca Lake, temperatures dropped to about 30 degrees for a few hours. Frost conditions were less cold and less prolonged for us than at other spots to our south and west. After careful review of our damage, we estimate that 20% of our potential crop experienced frost damage. The overall number hides extreme variation that we saw across our farm; our lakeside block between the winery and the lake experienced virtually 0% damage (Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and some Riesling), while the block immediately uphill from the parking lot had nearly 40% damage (Gewurztraminer and Pinot Noir).

Frost damage on vines  Gewurztraminer vines


Why does this matter? Can’t the vines grow back?

The primary growth on vitis vinifera creates the fruit for that year. After a frost or other injury to green tissue, the vine will produce new shoots and leaves. This new growth is called secondary or lateral growth, and it is typically devoid of fruit. Vines will completely recover from the frost damage, but they won’t grow any new fruit until next year.

While these losses are heartbreaking and worrying, we feel extremely fortunate to still have a 2023 crop. Some of our colleagues were not so lucky. We don’t know yet how severe the crop loss for the region as a whole will be. 2023 was projected to be a very large crop due to sunny and warm conditions during 2022 that developed this year’s new growth. If the flowers that were unaffected by the frost turn into a crop that is larger and heavier than last year’s tiny, drought-affected one, we may still have a larger vintage than last year. We are also starting to see signs of recovery in a small number of the shoots that were damaged by the frost, which is heartening.


Now what?

The frost in no way affects the wine we currently have on hand at the winery. Customers will begin to see the effects next year, when we may have much less inventory or no inventory of your favorite wine. It’s too soon to tell at this point which wines will be most affected, but we’ll keep you posted. Thanks for all the support and concern you’ve shared with us!