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Frost sweeps through North Coast vineyards during bloom period

Pockets of vineyards across the North Coast have suffered from frost damage over the past week, which is likely to contribute to an expected lower yield when the wine grape harvest kicks off later this summer, according to analysts.

Inman Family Wines reported Tuesday that it went through two frost nights in a row, as well as a hailstorm last week just as buds on its estate vineyard were starting to bloom, according to an Instagram post. Some vines will experience shatter, the term used for when the grapevine’s fragile flowers do not pollinate and develop into grapes. “Add this to the frost damage and it looks like lower yields for 2022,” the post read.

Areas with reports of potential frost damage include Pope and Childs valleys in eastern Napa County and the Carneros region straddling southern Napa and Sonoma counties, analysts said. Parts of Lake and Mendocino counties also were affected, as well as corners of Sonoma County vineyards where frost-protection sprinklers were not available. This follows an earlier round of frost in late February.

Some were unable to start their frost-protection wind machines or sprinklers fast enough as temperatures plummeted. Others have weighed whether to devote water for frost protection now or conserve it for later in the year for irrigation during the summer.

“In Mendocino County, people are having to make some pretty tough choices on saving their water through the growing season or using it to protect the vines right now,” said Christian Clear, who oversees the North Coast grape market for Novato-based Turrentine Brokerage.

Wine auction raises $445,000

The Sonoma County Barrel Auction on May 6 raised $445,000, which will go to marketing and promotion efforts to support the Sonoma County Vintners trade group.

The event, held at MacMurray Estate Vineyards, attracted trade buyers, such as wine shops and retail outlets that will later resell the special wines to customers and collectors.

The top auction lot was “The Big 4” cabernet sauvignon offering from the Silver Oak winery in the Alexander Valley that resulted in a $30,000 purchase price. The “2021 Neighborhoods” lot of pinot noir from Williams Selyem Winery in Healdsburg fetched $27,000.

The third highest purchase was the “Pacific Cuvée” lot of pinot noir from Kosta Browne winery that was sold for $18,500.

Local group attempts to form pest and disease control district

Some local vintners are trying to establish a pest and disease control district in Sonoma County.

The effort would allow for local research, as well as monitoring and acting against exotic pests, along with educational outreach focusing on the risks to area vineyards. The district would be funded through an assessment on wine grape acreage and the money raised would be managed by a board of growers, according to Jason Saling, who serves as the grower relations manager at Rodney Strong Vineyards.

The coalition behind the effort is targeting a threshold of acceptance of vineyard owners who hold either 30,000 acres and amount to at least 1,200 growers or those with 40,000 acres and represent more than 900 growers, Saling added.

Those interested in the effort can visit the group’s website at sonomacountypcd.org.

Compiled by Bill Swindell. North Bay Business Journal writer Jeff Quackenbush contributed to the column. Submit items to bill.swindell@pressdemocrat.com.

Bill Swindell

Business, Beer and Wine, The Press Democrat  

In the North Coast, we are surrounded by hundreds of wineries along with some of the best breweries, cidermakers and distillers. These industries produce an abundance of drinks as well as good stories – and those are what I’m interested in writing. I also keep my eye on our growing cannabis industry and other agricultural crops, which have provided the backbone for our food-and-wine culture for generations.

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