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Northwest Wine Grape Growers Brace for Cold Damage

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.

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?

Credit Anna King
Tom Waliser manages Pepper Bridge Winery's vineyard outside of Walla Walla, Washington.

The vineyard of Pepper Bridge Winery outside Walla Walla sports a combover of snow. Manager Tom Waliser 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.

“It’s a major setback. 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,” he said.

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

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.