What is in this article?:
- Major Central Coast vineyard losses reported from April frost
- Devastating frost
- Pullback from finalizing sales
- California wine grape growers and vintners are tallying up the damage caused earlier this month when a bitter-cold Alaskan weather front slowly moved through a large chunk of the state’s Central Coast premium wine grape growing area.
- Damage is unquestionably extensive in the northern San Luis Obispo and Southern Monterey counties around Paso Robles, Calif., and north to the King City area where tender 2011 crop buds were fried from hours of mid-20 degree temperatures.
- Some vineyards may not have a crop to harvest this fall due to the April 8-10 frost.
Pullback from finalizing sales
Growers are waiting for the vines to give them the answer. In the meantime, growers and wineries are pulling back from finalizing sales until the full extent of the damage and possible crop loss can be ascertained. Zelinski said many wineries may be surprised in a month to find out just how extensive the damage has been.
“Wineries are in the vineyards trying to find out what happened to the crop. It is definitely going to tighten things up in the grape market. Wineries had been looking for grapes for six weeks before the frost. It has been a pretty lonely three years up until this year,” he joked, adding wineries are also dangling long term contracts before growers to plant new vineyards. However, the prices so far have not warranted grabbing those deals, said Hampton and Smith.
“There is a buzz going on in the market, but it is a little early in the game to determine just how much damage was done. It will be an interesting couple of weeks ahead,” Hampton said. “However, there is no question there has been a significant crop loss,” in the Paso Robles area.
While the frost was relatively widespread, not all varietals were hit. Smith, Hampton and other growers held off pruning late emerging varietals like Cabernet and Zinfandel. Late pruning can delay bud break and give growers extra time to avoid frost.
Like all growers, Hampton will pay special attention to what happens with secondary buds, which are not typically as fruitful as the primary buds. One grower said secondary buds are good for only about half a normal crop.
There are things growers can do to prune off damaged buds and encourage other buds to replace those frosted. This and other post-frost practices will be discussed in a meeting May 10, sponsored by the Independent Grape Growers of The Paso Robles Area.
The meeting is scheduled for 1:30 – 3 p.m. at Silver Horse Vineyard and Winery in San Miguel, Calif., according to Zelinski.
Among those scheduled to speak is Dana Merrill, owner of Mesa Vineyard Management. Merrill manages 6,000 acres of vineyards, many of which were hit hard by the frost.
Chief Deputy County Agricultural Commissioner Brenda Ouwerkerk and Jennifer Anderson from the USDA Farm Service Agency also will speak.
Jacob said the county agricultural commissioner is evaluating the extent of the damage to determine if the county is eligible to declare it a disaster area.
The meeting is free to association members and $20 for others. Participants can RSVP to Precision Ag Consulting at 805-434-3331.