Wineries dodge icy bullet, survive late frost

Updated: Apr. 5, 2021 at 6:52 PM EDT
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ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - Central Virginia’s wineries narrowly avoided a potentially devastating frost event over the weekend, as temperatures plummeted after a stretch of warm weather had jumpstarted the growing season.

The warm weather led to concerns about an earlier bud break, when the first grapes of the season begin growing on the vine, than usual. When temperatures dropped into the low 20s on the morning of April 3, any fruit on the vine would have been put at risk. Thankfully, the worst was avoided, because buds were swelling, but had not broken yet.

“The lucky thing is the buds are just starting to swell. We don’t have any green tissue out yet,” Knight’s Gambit Vineyard Owner Paul Summers said. “We’ve got another week or two -- with the weather coming up I think things are really going to start to pop. Next week, I think will really be the danger time.”

Last year some wine growers lost as much as 90% of their crop for the year after two late frosts after bud break. Many vineyards have also changed strategies to help them fight the frost this year.

“Last year was the worst frost I have seen in my 21 years of managing this vineyard,” King Family Vineyards Manager Carrington King explained. “We decided, after last year’s catastrophic frosts all over Virginia, to invest in more wind machines.”

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