Last night was our first frost night of the growing season. Our tiny little buds are just beginning to peak out here and we got down to 27 degrees - not a good combination. So, about 11 p.m. (VERY, VERY EARLY for it to be that cold), on went the sprinklers! This morning we awoke to a vineyard covered in frost and ice, although not quite as dramatic as last year's icicles (see below for the 2008 winter vineyard wonderland).
I think the hardest part about it is that, in most cases, the vines don't exactly have indicators of damage. They don't have leaves this time of year (the leaves are in the tiny buds), so it's not like a house plant where you see wilting or discoloration and you know the plant's not happy. Their roots are feet below the soil (and a permanent cover crop, which we keep to allow beneficial insects in our vineyard and to cut down on vigor), so no clues there. In really bad cases of severe frost, all those little buds will just fall completely off and all that year's growth to-date is lost. For anything bad but not that severe, what we mostly see is a decreased crop load and that's not evident until much later in the season. So, as a grape grower, roll the dice and hold your breath! And we'll be hoping for a mild spring - I think everyone (my father especially) could use one.