Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Hail Storm Destroys 2011 Pinot Blanc Crop

I traded emails on Memorial Day with Paul Roberts, owner/winemaker - with his wife Nadine Grabania - of Deep Creek Cellars in far western Maryland. This was his first message that day:

On your next swallow of DC Pinot Blanc, savor it, ’cause their won't be any in 2011! Freaking hail storm last Thursday night. I couldn't get over there till yesterday. The PB was destroyed. The other varieties fared better, with the average lost being about 50 percent, it seems. One especially upright-growing clone of Pinot Noir clearly handled the quarter-size hail stones much better. Don't know if you've ever seen a vineyard after such a calamity; most of the shoots had reached the top wire, but everything was mowed back down to the fruiting wires, with serious injuries in the canopy to the shoots that did survive.

Last year, there was a near total wipe-out from the latest May freeze on record. This year, not quite not a complete loss but I'll have to find alternative sources again.

One local who is 87 said he never remembers hail of any significance on that ridge. Climate change-related? Who knows. Seems likely, just as it seems likely that if there are three EF-5 American tornadoes in one year, and only four, total, previously on record, that the changing climate is a factor.

Talking to the Huttons yesterday brought to mind war refugees. And that's the worst part: I put the chances at 50-50 that they'll continue next year, after two years in a row of such heavy losses in time, money, and hope.

2011 would have been the fourth leaf for this vineyard. The 2010 Pinot Blanc, from third leaf fruit, is remarkable, but of course there isn't much of it. This isn't the first vineyard parcel in the world to be battered by hail - it happens yearly in Burgundy - but it should serve as a reminder that when we drink a good wine we are drinking a product of farming. A product of back-breaking work and attention to thousands of details. Think about it the next time you raise a glass of wine to your lips.