This was the polar express: ‘Worst grape damage on record in Ohio’

There’s the cold you need to make ice wine. Then there’s the arctic, subzero, double-polar-vortex cold that deep-froze Ohio last winter. Which wasn’t good for the state’s wine grapes at all.

In a survey of 62 grape growers around Ohio, OARDC scientist Imed Dami (pictured) found that last winter’s cold damaged nearly all of the growers’ vinifera grape vines (high-value European kinds such as Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc), more than half of hybrid types such as Vidal Blanc and Traminette, and nearly a third of cold-hardy but lower-value American types like Concord.

“Vines sustained extensive bud damage and likely trunk damage depending on the location and the variety grown,” said Dami, associate professor in the Department of Horticulture and Crop Science. “This is probably the worst grape damage on record in Ohio, even worse than the last bad (winter) that took place in 1994.”

“This is probably the worst grape damage on record in Ohio, even worse than the last bad winter that took place in 1994.”—Imed Dami

Big chill, big losses, steps to bouncing back

  • The growers in the survey, who represented 838 acres of mostly European-type vines, estimated their losses at nearly $4 million.
  • Total losses are expected to be much larger — estimated at $12 million in a Cleveland Plain Dealer story — in that Ohio growers grow about 1,900 acres of grape vines in all.
  • Dami and colleagues are giving workshops around Ohio showing growers how to prune cold-damaged vines, for example, to get back to full production as soon as possible. Dami leads OARDC’s wine grape research.
  • To contact the scientist: Imed Dami at

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