LODI (CBS13) — Lodi-area grape growers were left in the cold after a hard freeze a month ago.
Stuart Spencer is the executive director of the Lodi Wine Grape Commission. He’s also a grower.
“Well everything was off to a great start until April 12 when we had a devastating frost across the Lodi region,” he said.
There are 100,000 acres of wine grapes in the area and the frost severely impacted one vineyard in Walnut Grove near I-5. What looks like grapes, are actually leaves damaged by frost.
“It looks like someone took a blow torch to the vineyard,” Spencer said. “The leaves are all black and brown and withering away.”
Spencer said not all varieties were impacted and some vines will recover.
“They will push out new shoots but your crop on those new shoots is likely to be 25-50% of what it could have been,” he said.
The other challenge is that when the fruit is ready, it could ripen unevenly.
“Sometimes it’s unequally frosted, so you could have parts with really good fruit that ripen up early and parts that are 2-4 weeks behind,” Spencer said. “And that really makes it difficult to harvest when they are all in the same row and you are trying to pick them all for one client.”
Approximately 600,000 tons of wine grapes are harvested from the Lodi area, bringing in $300 million — that’s one-fifth of California’s total production. Spencer worries that the April freeze could ice next year’s buds and growth, and as a result, cause millions in damage.
“Honestly, you really don’t know until you harvest the grapes and see what the crop is next year and you are like ‘Why don’t I have that many grapes out here?’ ” he said. “And then you remember ‘Yeah, we had a frost out here.’ ”
Spencer said there is crop insurance available, but often, it just helps farmers break even and it really doesn’t cover overhead. In the meantime, they still have to fertilize and water to get even a lower yield.