Frost Damage Hits Rappahannock County Vineyards

By Posted on May 12 2010 | By

Ask a winegrower what his greatest fear is—other than scoring low in wine competitions—and the answer would likely be, “Frost.”

This year the dreaded chill arrived in the dark of night on two occasions, injuring the county’s delicate vines. If frost hits during a period called “bud break”, it will kill the emerging grape cluster and deprived the winery of precious fruit.

On April 29 and again on May 9, temperatures dropped to freezing in the county and singed a number of vineyards.

Rappahannock Cellars lost small amounts of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and a somewhat larger crop of Cabernet Franc.

Conversely, Grey Ghost Vineyards dodged the icy bullet, attributing their good fortune to early bud break that occurred at the beginning of April.

Gadino Cellars estimated a one to two percent loss, focused mostly on its Chardonnay.

Reports of other frost damage have been heard but are unconfirmed. Damaged vines can grow secondary shoots but will produce less fruit.   Also, some damaged shoots might well have been thinned later in the growing season, so initial losses do not equate to a preordained loss of berries.

The full impact of Jack Frost’s visit may not be known until later in the growing season.

Spring frost underscores the fundamental farming nature of operating a winery. Nature’s bounty produces beautiful wines but it’s often not achieved without the tension that’s part of a life in agriculture.

Categories : WINE ARTICLES