Thursday 18. February. I think snowflakes are falling in Austin, Texas. For the sixth consecutive day, the temperature did not rise above freezing. We are in the midst of record low temperatures and a winter storm that covers the area first with a layer of ice, then 15 inches of snow, then 15 inches of ice again. This week’s storm has brought much adversity to Texas.
Power outages. No heat. There is no phone service. Interruptions to water supplies and water shortages. Frozen and burst water pipes flood homes. COLD! These are some of the many challenges we faced last week in Texas.
The good news is that this cold and reluctant visitor is finally leaving our region. We expect a return to more moderate temperatures for the weekend. The sunny thaw comes at an ideal time for folks to put this tough week behind them and relax in our tasting room at Fall Creek Vineyards in Driftwood, Texas.
Message: There has been power at Fall Creek Vineyards Driftwood since the beginning of this week, although our founders, the Alders, have been without power at their home in West Austin since Monday. It is therefore likely that visitors will welcome the friends of Auler at FCV Driftwood into the warmth of the vineyard. The Fall Creek Vineyards Tow is still without power, so we don’t know when it will be open to the public again.
The consequences of frost for our vineyards
The storm certainly had a big impact on people. What about our vineyards? How will this affect the 2021 harvest? We know that vines are sensitive to frost during the growing season. Spring frosts often damage buds and young shoots, causing harvest losses in Texas for several years. Thankfully, the freezing temperatures have arrived while the vineyards of our Oxbow Vineyard and other Texas wineries are still dormant. Vines are naturally susceptible to frost when dormant at low temperatures. Fully grown vines can withstand low temperatures down to -20 degrees Celsius, which is colder than we have experienced. In fact, the vines have a kind of cold counter-reaction that prevents them from starting new growth with bud bursts during the first heat wave in mid-winter. The vines need a certain number of hours of cold weather, otherwise they may experience a prolonged dormancy and delayed bud formation.
No matter how many hours of cold weather our vineyards endured this week, I’m sure they’ve endured enough hours of cold weather…. for the entire season. Since there are growth regulators in every bud, we think the result of this cold spell will actually be a godsend for our vines, leading to regular bud bursts. This means that we expect all the buds to come out evenly at the same time. A regular start leads to regular growth and ripening of the grapes. While it is too early to tell what impact the storm will have on our 2021 crop, we think our vineyards are off to a good start.
Another positive effect that can come from these very cold temperatures – according to my brother, who lived where Fahrenheit temperatures are the norm in winter – is that soil frozen deeper than normal becomes fluffier and lighter, easier to till and better oxygenated. These changes in the soil occur after freezing due to the expansion of the ice, which leaves new cavities as it melts. It is music to the ears of the root system of the vine.
Every cloud has a silver lining! Although there will still be a lot to see in the coming weeks and winter is far from over, there is a good chance that this weather will have a positive effect. Stay warm and stay tuned for the latest developments in this exciting wine season!
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