What is the hidden impact of frost on the vineyards?

by TrevR on July 21, 2008

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As you know we spent some time up at Cliff Lede Vineyards a couple weeks back–we were invited for a private tour and tasting and given the opportunity to walk the grounds with General Manager Jack Bittner (be sure to check out our video here).

As we walked between the rows and rows of vineyards and talked, we had a conversation about the 2008 growing season to-date. At the time, there was still smoke in the air from the Napa fires and we wondered if any of the winery’s Stags Leap District vines we were now in the midst of had been impacted by the frost earlier in the year. Fortunately, Bittner told us, the vines on the property had not seen any damage from the frost–between the physical location and the multiple sloping hillsides, the vines didn’t see much if any frost at all. Others in the valley (and beyond) weren’t so lucky.

Back in April we wrote about the frost that was threatening many of the just budding vines throughout the valley and made note of several methods (sprinklers and smudge pots) being used to keep the frost from doing damage. Interestingly enough, the sprinklers that were used so heavily this past spring may very well be cause for concern as we head into the dog-days of summer in late July and beyond. Why?

Well, we all know it has been a dry year by local standards–some have even used the “d” word (drought) to characterize the current situation. A dryer year means less water in local reservoirs–in fact many Napa Valley vineyards rely quite heavily on water from their own reservoirs to carry them through the growing season. The trouble is many of those very same vineyards had to use quite a lot of their water supply early in the growing season to fight back the frost.

So we’re left to wonder–what’s going to happen over the next few weeks when the weather heats up and water supplies continue to dwindle? What impact will the water supply, or lack thereof have on the 2008 harvest?

Surely it is a conundrum and one that vineyard managers have been fretting about and trying to alleviate for some time now. At the end of the day, it’s a reminder that the process of making wine is one based on farming and with that come a ton of variables that sit outside our control.

[techtags: Napa, Napa Valley, wine, winery, Cliffe Lede, Cliff Lede Vineyards, Jack Bittner, vineyard frost]

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has written 725 posts on The Cork Board. He was born and aged in the Napa Valley and has a passion for wine, writing and social media, which led him to co-found this blog in early 2007. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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