Frosty Spring Vineyard 2022

Frosty Spring Vineyard 2022

Grapegrowers and winemakers have been assessing the damage after a severe late frost struck the Willamette Valley. During the second week of April, record-low temperatures swept across the region, down to 26° F in some areas. While freezing weather is not uncommon in Oregon, it is highly unusual for the month of April when many vineyards are just starting budbreak. Even in the Coast Range, snow is an anomaly in mid-April.

The impact of spring frost varies from region to region, vineyard to vineyard, block to block, and even vine to vine. So much is dependent upon the unique microclimate of each individual block within each vineyard as well as the phenological development of the buds. The upper and mid-slopes seemed to fare better than the bottom of the hillsides where cold air tends to pool.

For now, it’s a waiting game. The extent of the damage won't definitively be clear until temperatures consistently reach 70° F for several days. Once the valley warms up, vine growth will restart, and we will then learn which buds have survived and which ones have been damaged.

To complicate damage assessment, the structure of each bud actually includes three buds: primary, secondary, and tertiary. The secondary and tertiary buds act as the plant’s insurance policy in the event the primary bud is damaged. While the main crop is produced by flowers from the primary bud, the secondary bud will develop in the event the primary bud is damaged. The downside is that the secondary bud generates far fewer flowers and produces a significantly smaller crop… but it’s much better than nothing! The tertiary bud will not produce fruit, but will leaf out to ensure the vine survives the summer months until it cycles back into dormancy in the late fall.

As for Lonesome Rock, we may get lucky in this instance. Due to our elevation, relative proximity to the coast, and microclimate, we have a cooler site than most vineyards in the area, and we were thus not yet experiencing budbreak. That being said, we did endure both temperatures of 26° F and an hour of hail, either of which may have caused damage. Furthermore, our two lowest blocks — Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier — seem to have taken the biggest hit according to our viticulture team and winemaker, Isabelle Dutartre of DePonte Cellars.

We will follow up with updates as we approach bloom and fruitset. For now, it’s just a waiting game.


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