GANGES TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A late warm front brought by Hurricane Ian allowed West Michigan vineyards and grape growers to extend their fruit’s time on the vine.

“These grapes are at a good enough place right now that we could harvest them if we needed to,” Brian Lesperance, vice president of operations and winemaking at Fenn Valley Vineyard near Fennville, said Friday. “But we prefer not to because we’re going to be able to get more flavor, more color, more complexity if we let them hang longer.”

The typical wine grape harvest season in Michigan starts around Labor Day and lasts through October, weather permitting. With a warm summer and a relatively slow start to fall, Lesperance said some of his red varietals like the cab franc have yet to be harvested.

“I call it extreme farming because we’re really pushing every possible growing degree day that we can get out of our climate,” he said.

The wine industry in Michigan is valued at more than $6 billion, according to Jenelle Jagmin, Director of Michigan Craft Beverage Council. She said the industry also attributes to the creation of more than 25,000 jobs.

“This past year, St. Julian Winery celebrated its 100th anniversary,” Jagmin said. “So making wine is not actually very new in Michigan. We started seeing a lot of experimental plantings of wine grapes in Michigan in the mid-’70s.”