Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The April Freeze of 2012

Life is truly strange.  Two weeks ago at the beginning of an extended cold spell, many of us were relieved (if we thought about it at all) that at least it wasn't the 2005 Easter snowstorm and freeze all over again.  In fact what happened two weeks ago wasn't at all like the prior event which created a three day ice age for North Georgia and the ruination of a growing season for many wineries.  This time the duration was a matter of hours but the consequences for some wineries around here may end up being worse than '05.

I recall a conversation I had with one North Georgia winery owner after the 2005 storm who went to great pains to explain his extensive vineyard planning which, in part, meant placing thermometers around the projected vineyards and obsessively checking temperatures at all hours throughout the year.  This individual said this regimen was maintained for eight years prior to planting his vines!  When the 2005 storm hit, with helpful labor assistance every hour he would move heaters with blowers through his vineyards to prevent his vine buds from freezing and his crop was consequently saved.  Could it be that a lack of planning for a weather anomaly of this kind is to blame for the destruction this time?

Enter Steve Gibson long time General Manager of Habersham Vineyards and past Chairman of the Board of industry advocacy group, Wine America.  According to Steve, what actually happened here this time had more to do with the mild winter and the advanced budding of the vines at the time of the freeze than a lack of preparation by the proprietors.  The vines were frankly more vulnerable.  Now with regard to pre-planning your vineyard, in hindsight, slope selection, elevation, and wind patterns all contribute positively (or negatively) when faced with freezing weather.  Stages of vine development would have to be influenced by factoring in these variables.  And in fact the wineries that were further north or at a higher elevation featured vines at earlier developmental stages with minimal budding.  Wolf Mountain Vineyards in Dahlonega survived the weather by having the right slopes with opportune wind patterns thereby dodging the destructive freeze.

I live in Clermont and I was oblivious to any freeze at all.  Mossy Creek Vineyard is no more than five miles from my house and they of course had well developed vines but the temperatures were fine.  Stonepile Vineyard in Habersham County at a similar latitude lost half of their crop.  C'est la vie.

Lastly here is the one factor none of us likes to discuss.  Many small businesses are more vulnerable today than we were in 2005.  Taking an economic punch now is a lot harder than before.  May God be with those in that industry and also with us all.

Now for something completely different...  Taste Portuguese wines here on Friday (5-7pm) when Stan Fenner of Artisan Vines presents his fine fare for our consideration.  These wines are truly amazing.  Please join us.

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