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Unseasonably hot weather has been good for some of Michigan's wineries

A girl posing with a curled bicep next to a large industrial grape-sorting machine.
Lee Leutes
Black Star Farms intern Lexi Clark strikes a pose during the first day of grape processing. Grapes are sorted before they're destemmed and crushed prior to fermenting.

An early-autumn heatwave is just about wrapping up in Michigan, and the warm weather has been a boon for some Michigan wineries.

Cooler weather and rain at the beginning of August amounted to a slow start of the harvest season, according to Lee Lutes, the head wine-maker and general manager of the wineries at Black Star Farms, near Traverse City.

“And then this heat set in and, boy, it’s almost like flipping a switch,” Lutes said. “It’s nothing but good.”

Lutes says wine and juice grapes both have ripened up quickly in the hot, sunny weather of the last few weeks. Whether it’s an exceptional year for Michigan wine still has to be determined, and depends largely on the number of sunny days as harvesting continues into the first half of October.

As grapes and other late-season fruits ripen, farmers and harvesters will be bustling to pick and process them.

“These kinds of temps, and this kind of sun, really makes those late-season fruits really push to maturity,” Lutes said.

Kevin Robson with the Michigan Farm Bureau says apple growers are also taking extra time for fruits to cool off before putting them in short- or long-term storage. He says consumers won’t notice any change in price or quality. Many of the apples being harvested now will be stored through the winter, although there is some demand for fresh fruits.

“If the heat isn’t taken out of the apples property you can get bruising … defects that aren’t desirable for the consumer,” Robson said. “[Growers] are taking the extra precautions to let the apples cool down overnight, multiple nights, until the season goes back to more normal temperatures."

Tyler Scott is the weekend afternoon host at Michigan Public, though you can often hear him filling in at other times during the week. Tyler started in radio at age 18, as a board operator at WMLM 1520AM in Alma, Michigan, where he later became host of The Morning Show.
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