A mid-May cold snap led to some buds freezing solid, right on the vine, in parts of Northeast Ohio’s Grand River Valley this week.
That’s bad news for some local wine-makers; those tiny frozen grapes posed a big problem for Hundley Cellars, located in Harpersfield Township in Geneva. Co-founder and co-owner Tracy Hundley Pringle says she estimated that the frost might have caused a 40% mortality rate of grapes on the vine for the season. The plants won’t die, but the year's grape yield will be drastically affected.
“When you’re a small producer, that’s a big deal,” Hundley Pringle says. “That could be up to a $20,000 impact.”
Though cold temperatures on Wednesday night affected the Geneva region, they hit Hundley differently than larger vineyards like Debonne and Grand River Cellars, which utilize fans to keep cold air circulating in rows of grapes to avoid frost forming on the plants.
Hundley Cellars, a family-owned vineyard and restaurant, has been open for nine years and planted its vines 11 years ago. But because of its small five-acre footprint, the business hasn’t purchased a frost fan, Hundley Pringle says.
“We farm as a community here in the Grand River Valley,” Hundley Pringle says. “Although it’s devastating for us personally, I’m really encouraged that the greater community is still somewhat intact.”
Though the full impact of the frost is yet to be seen, Hundley Pringle says that she’ll need to purchase more grapes from growers to craft the brand’s variety of wines this year — a list that includes a pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, riesling and more. Some bottles are more personal to the owner’s family, like the “Blonde Ambition,” a white wine best served on ice, and the “Endless Summer,” a light white wine meant to celebrate Northeast Ohio’s brief summer season.
The last time Hundley Cellars was so severely affected by weather was eight years ago, during a polar vortex, Hundley Pringle says.
Hundley Pringle, who on Facebook shared her emotional experience of sobbing in her vineyard after she realized many of the plants had frozen, hopes to use the event to highlight mental health issues for farmers.
“It’s something I’m really passionate about. It’s a gamble; we’re at the mercy of mother nature. And all farmers, whether you’re a soybean farmer or corn farmer, we all work so hard and pour our lives and love into our farms,” Hundley Pringle says. “Just support local. Thank a farmer. Support farmers. Don’t take them for granted.”
Find more information about Hundley Cellars at hundleycellars.com.