Battany is putting together post-frost recommendations for growers.

Merrill agrees with Battany that waiting is the right decision for now.

“We are seeing some dramatic changes in the growth of the vines. Growth is coming out everywhere, except where buds used to be. We are seeing suckers coming out of cordons,” Merrill said. He does not believe there are as many secondary buds as people are counting on to replace the fruit from primary buds killed by frost. Some spurs are “totally dry” like the result of winter kill. Merrill has seen year old wood dead from the frost.

The loss of the primary buds will result in less fruit from secondary or tertiary buds. It could easily be off as much as 50 percent.

“It was damn cold. Very bizarre,” he added. “Rain storms came through and then the temperature dropped real fast, creating a super cooling effect.” Growers with frost protection impact sprinklers or small pulsating sprinklers atop the rows gained protection — if the water supply held out during the night. It did not in some cases. “If you ran out of water during the frost, the damage will actually be worse.” Wind machines were worthless because there was no inversion layer of warmer air.

All of this will result in a “completely uneven harvest” said Merrill.

He predicted wineries must be “a little more supportive” at harvest this year because they are not going to find tonnage and homogenous Brix readings.

“You are going to find everything from 29 to 18 Brix in the same vineyard. If wineries are going to demand equal quality for super premium wine, they may only get a ton or even only a half ton per acre. They are going to have to be a little more flexible than in the past,” he said. “Uniformity across all tonnage is going to be hard to achieve this year.”

The wine grape market was already active before the frost and the loss of tonnage on the Central Coast will only heat up the market. The market may be so short of grapes that wineries will take non-uniform Brix grapes for wine priced at $10 or less and try to compensate at the winery.