Winemakers Worry about Effect of Frost on Crops - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Winemakers Worry about Effect of Frost on Crops

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Cardinal Point Winery Cardinal Point Winery

Monday night, all eyes are on the thermometer as temperatures flirt with freezing. Central Virginia winemakers are on edge.

A later-than-normal frost is threatening the grape crop and could spoil the 2013 vino vintage.

"I've been growing grapes for 25 years and I'll tell you what, frost is...you just never know," said winemaker Tim Gorman, of Cardinal Point Winery in Nelson County.

A late frosty forecast has vintners on high alert, finding creative ways to keep freezing air from seeping in. Gorman is using a pair of wind turbines to protect 15 acres of vines at Cardinal Point.

"Any green tissue is - and that's where this year's fruit is - it comes out in the new buds so basically the whole crop is on the line tonight," Gorman said.

All of the vines have budded at this point: chardonnay, petit verdot and cabernet sauvignon. Forecasters say the below-average temperatures are not unheard of but are rare.

"Once we do reach that 32-degree temperature, it's not going to stay there very long. Once we get the angle of the sunshine, temperatures are going to bounce pretty quickly," said David Rogers, NBC29 meteorologist.

The wind turbine wasn't on the farm in 2002. It was in May of that year when Gorman says temperatures tumbled below the freezing mark and as a result he lost a majority of the crop on the part of the farm that was missing a turbine.

Crops that fall to frost will have a second budding. But it would be a much smaller yield - to the tune of only 10 percent of the total potential harvest.

"Losing a crop to frost is...you lose your shirt," Gorman said.

The mercury did dip below 32 degrees Sunday night at Cardinal Point. But it was only for a few minutes and there was no damage to the crop. Monday night, though, could be a different story.

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