Wines & Vines Home
   
 
Welcome Guest
LOGIN |  CREATE ACCOUNT
 
ADVERTISEMENT
 
 
 
05.20.2011  
 

30% Winegrape Crop Loss Expected

San Luis Obispo County growers gauge effects of freeze six weeks ago

 
by Kate Lavin
 
 
san luis obispo paso robles frost vineyard
 
Rhone Varieties such as Viognier and Grenache (above) were hit particularly hard by the April frost.
Paso Robles, Calif.—In the weeks since a frost event battered coastal vineyards from Santa Barbara to Monterey counties April 8 and 9, buds have failed to push out and sucker growth has popped up. Overall, many predict that the region’s 2011 crop will be down 30% as a result of the freeze.

Vineyard managers reported that standard frost-protection measures were not effective in combating the frigid temperatures, which surprised many by striking some high-elevation regions harder than the low-lying valleys that are often worst hit by frost events.

The most damaged area follows a 60-mile swath of Highway 101 from Templeton north to King City in Monterey County. During the 1970s, developers started installing wind machines as the primary frost protection program for Central Coast vineyards; few vineyard acres are protected by overhead sprinklers.

At the time of the mid-April freeze, there was no inversion layer of warm air above, and wind machines designed to circulate warm air down into vineyard rows proved ineffective: They circulated only more frigid air.

Temperatures dipped below freezing before midnight and stayed there until early morning. Dana Merrill, who owns Templeton, Calif.-based Mesa Vineyard Management with his wife Marsha, said that temperatures in some areas dropped as low as 24ºF; other zones were pounded with hail.

Surveying the scene
Richard Smith, president of Valley Farm Management in Soledad, told Wines & Vines that the April freeze marked the first time in 39 years that he’d had notable damage from frost. About 300 of his 3,000 vineyard acres were damaged by frost—all of them planted to Chardonnay.

Smith turned on his frost protection at 9 p.m. and ran it until 9 the next morning. Typically it isn’t turned on until at least midnight, and more often from 4 a.m. until 7 a.m.

“I’ve had more damage on the benchland than on the valley floor (100 feet below), and that’s what’s really screwy. We had pockets of air that moved around,” he said. “The 100 acres on the benchland were devastated. It looks like someone went through with a torch.”

The freeze surprised many growers, according to Stacie Jacob, executive director of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance, who added, “We had great rain, and we had some really warm weather before the frost hit. The vines were pushing and next thing you know we get zapped with a cold spell.

“It was one of the hardest frosts we’ve had in quite some time,” she said. “Some vines will need to be cut back down.”

The area’s No. 1 grape, Cabernet Sauvignon, wasn’t budding out at the time of the freeze, but frost conditions still killed a good number of Cab buds across the 27,000-acre appellation. Merlot (the No. 2 grape in San Luis Obispo County) fared a bit better. Merrill said that Rhône varieties such as Viognier and Grenache were hit hardest. “Syrah is growing again, but there are no grapes on it,” he said.

Goodbye 2011 vintage?
In the Hames Valley AVA where Smith experienced frost, a second crop has come in, which he said will probably comprise no more than half the original set.

According to Merrill, who tends about 6,000 acres between Santa Barbara and Monterey counties, most of the region’s grapegrowers were already under contract for this season, and prices were starting to bounce back from the past few years of recession.

“A lot of people are kind of in shock—especially the newer growers. Prices are finally getting better, and then this happens,” he said. “2010 was a big-yield year, so we’re going to go from a big yield year to one of the lightest. There is going to be a very noticeable drop.” He estimated that growers may lose an average of 2 tons per acre.

Both Jacob and Merrill emphasized that about half of the winegrapes grown in San Luis Obispo County are bought by wineries outside of the area, so while some sources predict that the possible crop loss due to frost could be as high as 50%, wineries within the county should not have trouble sourcing fruit.

It’s not as if there will suddenly be no Paso wines on the shelf, Jacob said. “We were really a grapegrowing region first,” and the area was built on solid relationships. “So I think those folks (from outside the region) that look to Paso for that inexpensive, high-quality fruit, that’s potentially the area that could be hurt this year.”

In the meantime, Merrill said, there is nothing to do but wait. “We just have to see what we get out of these grapes. In a lot of ways, we’re farming the 2012 crop now. The 2011 crop is gone and we’re just raising a vine,” he said.

SHARE »
Close
 
Currently no comments posted for this article.
 
CURRENT NEWS INDEX »


 
Wines & Vines Home
 
866.453.9701 | 415.453.9700 | Fax: 415.453.2517
65 Mitchell Blvd., Ste. A San Rafael, CA 94903
info@winesandvines.com
Wine Industry Metrics
 
Off-Premise Sales » Month   12 Months  
September 2014 $575 million
5%
$7,743 million
6%
September 2013 $550 million $7,311 million
     
Direct-to-Consumer Shipments » Month   12 Months  
September 2014 $163 million
16%
$1,708 million
11%
September 2013 $141 million $1,538 million
     
Winery Job Index » Month   12 Months  
September 2014 166
14%
226
18%
September 2013 145 192
     
 
MORE » Released on 10.15.2014
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Practical Winery & Vineyard Library
 
Search the PWV archive »
 
 

FEATURES
 

Direct To Consumer
Wine Shipping Report
2014
 
Download full report »
 
 

CALENDAR
  • November 1-2
     
    A Wine & Food Affair
     
  • November 1-2
     
    Temecula Harvest Celebration Barrel Tasting
     
  • November 5
     
    Single Vineyard Night
     
  • November 5-6
     
    Southeastern United Wine & Grape Symposium
     
  • MORE »
 

READER COMMENTS
 
Article: What's Your Winery's IP Worth? »
 
If you would like more information on this seminar please visit The Seminar Group's website....
Reader: Danielle Bingham
 
Article: DtC Is Lifeblood of Wineries, Banker Says »
 
Seems like another locical option would be to have more small niche distrbutors. Consolidation of...
Reader: Guest
 
Article: Tasting Wine From PD-Resistant Grapes »
 
Congratulations Andy! Lots of grapebreeders and southern growers will be looking through the catalogs. i...
Reader: Guest
 
Article: The 'Sideways' Effect »
 
Thank you for this research that confirms what many thought about the pinot noir effect....
Reader: Guest
 
Article: Fine for Volunteer Labor Makes Wineries Wary »
 
This is so incredibly asinine. And my taxes go to help fund these over-reaches? No...
Reader: Philburtonj
 
 


Directory/Buyer's Guide — Your Wine Industry Marketplace
 
 
WINERY SEARCH
 
 
Advanced Search »
SUPPLIER SEARCH
   by Product
 by Company Name or Brand
 
Browse by Category »
2015 Directory/Buyer's Guide
The Wines & Vines Directory and Buyer's Guide
 
 
EXPANDED ONLINE SEARCH INCLUDED WITH PURCHASE
 
ORDER NOW »
 
LEARN MORE »
 
 
Wines & Vines Magazine
 
 
LEARN MORE »
 
SUBSCRIBE »
 
Digital Edition Now Available!
Wines & Vines Digital Edition Now Available
 
LEARN MORE »
 
ORDER NOW »
 
 
The Wines & Vines Online Marketing System
 
The Industry Standard winery marketing application
 
FREE LIVE DEMO »
 
VIEW VIDEO »
 
 
 
 
Latest Job Listings
 Ams Is Hiring
 Santa Rosa, CA
General Administration and
 Compliance Assistant/S...
 Sonoma County, CA
General Administration and
 Sales Support Administ...
 Novato, CA
General Administration and
 Ranch Leader 3 - Napa ...
 Healdsburg, CA
Vineyards
 Assistant Store Manage...
 New York, NY
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Tasting Room Associate...
 Sebastopol, CA
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Assistant Tasting Room...
 Healdsburg, CA
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Jr. Network Administra...
 St. Helena, CA
General Administration and
 Tasting Room And Wine ...
 Sonoma County, CA
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Tasting Room/Hospitali...
 Rutherford, CA
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 
More Job Listings >>
Follow Us On:
 
 





Home  |  About Us  |  Editors  |  Subscribe  |  Print Edition  |  Digital Edition

Advertise  |  Site Map  |  Contact Us  |  Privacy Policy
 
 
Copyright © 2001-2014 by Wine Communications Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
No material may be reproduced without written permission of the Publisher.
Wines&Vines does not assume any responsibility for any unsolicited manuscripts or materials.