Dodging Bullets

The unseasonably mild winter caused early bud break and much anxiety for Virginia winegrowers. The warm weather couldn’t last forever, and it didn’t. March and April brought several frost and freeze warnings, giving area growers fitful sleep. Some resorted to hiring a helicopter to keep the air stirring over the cash crop during the crucial early hours. A reporter from our local paper called John the evening before a predicted freeze. “What measures do you intend to take?” he asked. “I am just going to hope for the best,” John answered.

While helicopters can be effective, as can the old fashioned smudge pots that warm the air around the vines, these methods were deemed either too expensive or too impractical to Ox-Eye’s principal shareholders (John and I), who crossed their fingers and went to sleep. At some point you have to have faith in your site: faith that the air which constantly stirs during the day will stir during the cold night; faith that Elliot Knob (at 4463 feet in elevation), which can be seen to the southwest of our farm, will offer some protection from incoming fronts; faith that the sloping hills will offer adequate air drainage; faith that the weather service got it wrong again, and that it really won’t get that cold.

We dodged the bullets this year. The freezes bypassed us, leaving the buds unscathed. A frost or freeze at this point is unlikely, but farmers in Virginia will never forget the late May freezes of 2002, freezes that decimated Virginia’s crop (ours included).

As the great sage, Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over till it’s over!”


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