Enter, Cumulonimbi

July 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

Recently I find myself talking about the weather almost as much as I did the summer in high school when I bagged groceries and carried them out to customers’ cars, and was required by upper management to pass the time discussing fluffy things as non-political and non-controversial (this is now debatable, living, as we do, in a world of ‘climate change’) as heat and humidity.  ‘It’s really a nice one today, isn’t it?’ was my bread and butter.  That, and the legendary, ‘You gonna get a chance to enjoy the weather today?’

Split Merlot berry, after receiving all kinds of rain at all the wrong times

Winegrowers (and thus farmers, I assume, although I don’t know a whole lot of non-winegrowing farmers and so can’t say for sure) talk about hail not as hail but as a capitalized Hail Event, separating it from standard precipitation and putting it (rightly, I say) with hurricanes and tornadoes.  While one is perfectly right in saying, “Yesterday it rained,” which benignly paints the lowercase rain event in a  fairly inconsequential light, it would be incorrect to say the similar, “Yesterday it hailed,” or “Yesterday it tornado’d.”  One wouldn’t say, “Yesterday there was hail,” either, in the same way that one might say, “Yesterday there was a tornado in Omaha,” unless the hail was somewhere else, which doesn’t say a lot about the syntax but says something our placing less importance on equally devastating things happening in other places.  But if it happened to you, or your vineyard, the only way you can really say it is, “Yesterday we had a Hail Event.”

Punctured Merlot berry from a Hail Event


Vineyard damage from a Hail Event doesn’t seem to be extremely common in Virginia, but it is a concern and (as you might imagine) there isn’t a whole lot we can do about it.  Whatever you think might happen when a Hail Event situates itself above a vineyard is pretty much what happens.  The hail slices open leaves and cracks open the fruit.  Open fruit is then exposed to all types of nasty fungi and bacteria, and is unfit for wine production.  This year, we had a small Hail Event coinciding with heavy rains at a time when an imbalance of water movement through the fruit resulted in some berry splitting, which is identical as punctured fruit w/r/t all types of nasty fungi and bacteria.

Cracked iPod following a Tripping-While-Jogging Event

We have not had any serious water- or Hail Event-related damage in our vineyards this year.  (For perspective, it took me over an hour to find those berries you see above.)  But there have been some heavy hail-dropping thunderstorms in our area in the past two weeks, and I have heard anecdotally about damage to other vineyards, and possibly other farms, so while I hope the Hail Events for this year are behind us, it is something to keep an eye on, and certainly something to talk about.

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