Northwest Wine Grape Growers Brace For Cold Damage

By Anna King

Northwest wine grape growers expect this week’s very cold weather to do some damage to their vineyards. But it’s not clear yet how much of next year’s fruit might be affected.

Tom Waliser manages Pepper Bridge vineyard outside of Walla Walla, Washington. Photo by Anna King.Deep cold on wine vines isn’t good. But several factors determine just how bad it is. There’s the cold itself, and how long it lasts. There’s the elevation, colder air tends to settle in lower valleys. Then, there’s the variety of grape – is it German tough or less-cold hardy Mediterranean? 

Tom Waliser manages some of the best-known vineyards in the Northwest. We’re standing in one of them, it’s called Pepper Bridge and it sports a comb-over of snow. He says every so often he has to cut vine trunks back to the ground, and that means it will be several years before a fruit harvest comes again. He says it’s a major setback, and "It’s not only economical, but it’s hard to get motivated for the next year when you know you don’t even have a crop.”

Waliser says he won’t know how bad the damage is for about a week after this cold passes.

Photo: Tom Waliser manages Pepper Bridge vineyard outside of Walla Walla, Washington. Photo by Anna King.

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