For winery owners and grape growers, they were doing their best to keep an eye out on their vineyards and properties, but for most, roads were too icy to travel to do a lot of on-the-ground, real-time observation until recently. Here are some of our observations:
Julie Kuhlken, Pedernales Cellars
This freeze event was different than some of the more recent freezes because of the duration of the cold temperatures. It stayed so cold for so long. Our vines at Kuhlken Vineyard were completely covered in ice, which might have protected them a bit while the ice was forming. The snow we got here as well as in the Texas High Plains created air pockets that acted as an insulator. Given the already cold winter in the High Plains, the grapes there were already pretty acclimated.
Since vines were still dormant in both AVAs, we are hopeful there will be little damage except for some of our new plantings that went in the ground at Kuhlken Vineyard in the spring. We are 1-2 weeks away from bud break, so we will know more then!
The winery lost power for 10 days, including electricity for our well. We have restored water to the winery, but are still working to get water to the production facility so it can be up and running again. The trees around our deck miraculously survived, but our native plants are clearly not suited for that kind of cold.
Tommy Wellford, Duchman Family Winery
This freeze closed the winery for 12 days. Compared to others, we fared pretty well with just a couple of broken water pipes. It was hard to believe that we had temperatures in the 80s just a week after one of the worst winter storms in history.
According to our growers in the High Plains, it’s just too early to tell if there is any damage. Thankfully the vines were dormant, so we will just have to wait and see.
One thing is for sure. With last year’s pandemic, which continues into this year, and now this freeze, we have learned to be creative, versatile and to roll with the punches. We are prepared for anything.
Ron Yates, Spicewood Vineyards
Time will tell over the next two or three weeks if there is new growth on the vines or if they were damaged by the freeze. The vineyard got to -2 degree but luckily the vines were encased in ice, providing some insulation. Thankfully, I recently pulled out 10 acres of vines that had been damaged by Pierce’s Disease so there were no new plantings there. We were in different stages of pruning at our different vineyards so will be interesting to see what impact, if any, pruning had on the vines.
The High Plains did not seem to be hit as hard; one of our growers did some bud cuttings and has green wood. So there is reason for optimism but we just will have to see.
Despite some broken water pipes and no water in our tasting room, people are still eager to visit! On the first warm day after the freeze, I showed up at the winery to assess whether to open, only to have four cars already in the parking lot – so we opened!
Bob Young, Bending Branch Winery
Our estate vineyards were covered in ice and snow – something we have obviously never seen before here. We have one acre of Crimson Cabernet – which was bred to be cold hardy and turned out also to be resistant to Pierces Disease – at the estate vineyard that we planted two springs ago and are cautiously optimistic we will get our first crop this year. The grapes at nearby Lost Pirogue Vineyards are pushing water so that’s a good sign.
Bending Branch was closed for week but thankfully, we had no damage to the winery or tasting room. In fact, since we only had intermittent power outages, we were able to heat our well pump houses so they didn’t freeze. We ended up providing 2,000+ gallons of well water to Comfort residents because the City had no water. We also donated bottled water to the Boys and Girls Club of Comfort so they could re-open. And our team members made extraordinary efforts to donate their time and resources to various community groups and one another to make sure people were cared for.