WineMaker News Page

Updated June 24, 2019

Winter 2018–19 Claims Casualties

Photo by Ed Kwiek

Unlike the winter of 2013–14, this past winter was not nearly as brutal overall for the Midwest. But a four-day stretch at the very end of January brought devastation to many vineyards and grape growers throughout the upper Midwest region including much of Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin,. as well as Northern Illinois and eastern Dakotas. Wind chill values dropped down into the -50s to -60s °F (-40 to -50s °C) in these areas. According to a report published in, some varieties did better, “La Crescent, Frontenac, and especially Itasca did quite well, whereas St. Pepin and Edelweiss suffered more damage.” For more information, see

Traverse City Wines Score Big

While this story would possibly have been more of interest to our readers and Conference goers one or two issues ago, Wine Enthusiast magazine in their July 2019 issue, rated and reviewed over 100 wines from the Traverse City, Michigan area and an astounding 65 of those wines scored between 87–91 points, on par with regions such as New Zealand, Washington, Oregon, and Spain. Make note to seek out a bottle or mark it on your destination map, because the region won’t be unknown for long. Learn more at

Western Grape Growers

Wine climatologist Gregory Jones from Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon has just released his June 2019 assessment with a post-mortem breakdown for May weather conditions and his outlook for June and beyond. If you are a grape grower in the western states, you should probably give his report a read here:

Health Benefits of Red Wine

Time magazine in April published an article worthy of sharing with WineMaker readers. The author looked at some of the latest studies surrounding whether red wine is beneficial for consumers. The article touched on the beneficial components such as the high phenolic levels in red wine and their related antioxidative properties. But it was also noted that there may be lifestyle choices that wine drinkers make, such as being more social and more apt to eat healthy, that could be equally beneficial. What the author concludes is that there may be several reasons overall that make drinking wine in moderation may be beneficial. It was also inconclusive that red wine is actually healthier than white wine. To read more visit

Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg?

A recent study published in Nature Metabolism, found a possible explanation of why certain cellular organisms such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae, produce ethanol. According to scientists at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, the reason may actually lie in the fact that it is a way to slow energy production, sort of like an engine governor. When placed in a nutrient-rich environment, such as those found in wine must, a yeast cell heads into hyper-drive metabolically speaking. When energy production exceeds a certain level, the yeast cells will switch from respiration to fermentation, effectively slowing down energy production.]

This self-regulated “safety cap” on the cell’s metabolic rate means that instead of taking each 6-carbon sugar ring and fully respiring the sugar down to 6 carbon dioxides, we instead get 2 ethanol and 2 carbon dioxide molecules. This is a lot less energy efficient (19 times less efficient) for the yeast cell. . . but this, biologically speaking, may actually be a good thing for the organism. What the scientists theorize is that this excess energy would stir up too much motion within the cell, effectively harming key cellular functions acting within the cell. Meanwhile, ethanol production by yeast has traditionally been viewed as a biological advantage, as ethanol is lethal to many competing organisms. So, the question then is, why did this ethanol-producing mutation occur? Was it for cellular safety reasons or was it for biological advantage? Maybe a little of both — but to read more about the study, visit:

Latest Smoke Taint Research

A talk at the Sonoma County Grape Days in February 2019 by assistant professor Dr. Thomas Collins of Washington State University Wine Science Center suggests that smoke taint can occur both pre- and post-veraison. It has been a long held belief that smoke taint is mainly a post-veraison problem, but the latest indications are that it can occur on pre-veraison grapes as well.

Smoke composition has also been shown to play a big role in smoke taint with not all wildfire smoke having the same effects on grapes. Some smoke types seem to have a bigger effect while others can have very little impact. Dr. Collins has been studying the effects of various smoke types and researching some of the key smoke taint compounds for several years now.

New Products

Artisanal Small-Batch Brewing

For those looking to explore the world of fermentation outside of the grape world, herbalist Amber Shehan has written a book promoting small-scale wine, cider, mead, and beer brewing. Focusing on recipes and exploration, small-scale batches allow those looking to experiment with these unique alcoholic beverages a great opportunity to begin. The book is split into five groupings: Mead, country and fruit wines, ciders, beer/gruit, and finally other-recipe types. Check with your favorite local or online bookseller for more info.

Got Brix?

A newly released winemaker’s management software tool that has been designed to track several aspects of batch production including processes, notable events, inventory along with their associated dates, measurements, and costs. Special features such as estimators, calculators, converters, and text and/or email reminder alerts enhance your winemaking experience by providing a customizable experience. Reporting allows you to see the progress of current batches and view historical data of archived batches. After bottling a batch of wine Got Brix? automatically adds it to your personal cellar tracker alongside your entire wine collection. For more information visit

Upcoming Events


July 15

Entries for the amateur wine competition must be registered by July 15 and must be received at the Oregon State Fairground by July 19. All entries must be registered and paid for online prior to shipping or delivery at the Oregon State Fairgrounds. All entries require (2) bottles per entry. For more information, visit

August 23

The 2019 Sonoma County Harvest Fair closes their wine competition entries at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, August 23. Wines can be received, either via mail or dropped at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds from August 19–23. Each entry costs $12 and consists of two bottles. Judging takes place on September 8. For more visit

October 19

Entry deadline for the American Wine Society (AWS) 2019 Amateur Wine Competition. The cost is $25 (AWS member) / $35 (non-member) per entry. For more information about entering your wines, ciders, and meads, visit:

May 28-31, 2020

In case you haven’t heard yet, WineMaker is pleased to announce the location of our 13th Annual Conference: San Luis Obispo, California. The 2020 WineMaker Conference will be located near the heart of Paso Robles wine country. Early-bird registration to save $100 is now open.