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April snow storm damages local vineyards; too early to tell the extent

<i>KPTV</i><br/>Wineries hit by a midspring snowstorm earlier this month are still assessing damages to their crop.
KPTV
KPTV
Wineries hit by a midspring snowstorm earlier this month are still assessing damages to their crop.

By CONNOR MCCARTHY

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    NEWBERG, Oregon (KPTV) — Wineries hit by a midspring snowstorm earlier this month are still assessing damages to their crop.

Kim Bellingar, owner of Bellingar Estates, said it’s still too early to tell the extent of the damage. But she said, at least for her winery, she’s already predicting this year’s harvest to be smaller than usual, resulting in a loss of revenue.

At Bellingar Estates in Newberg, vines just started sprouting green buds that would eventually bear fruit a week before Northwest Oregon’s record snowstorm. Bellingar said the frost killed the buds, turning them brown and crunchy.

“This is an unprecedent event in the Willamette Valley to have cold temperatures in April,” Bellingar said. “We had snow in April. I have never seen snow in April here in the Willamette Valley.”

Bellingar said eventually the vines will sprout new green buds but this delay will set back her harvest time a few weeks.

“The challenge is there’s not much you can do when it happens and mother nature is going to do what she does,” Bellingar said.

She said about 80 percent of the buds on her vines were damaged by the cold temperatures. But the vines themselves will survive. Bellingar said this cold snap will impact the quantity of wine, not the quality. She also said each winery is experiencing something different from the cold snap. For at least her winery, this will be the third year in a row Bellingar’s harvest will yield a product below what’s typical

“Unfortunately were working with a couple years in a row of smaller vintages then we would like and so many wineries will be faced with shorter supply,” Bellingar said.

Bellingar has worked in the wine industry since 2007. She said since then, she’s noticed a change in climate that’s impacting the wine industry here in Oregon.

“We’re starting to see more extreme weather events,” Bellingar said. “So it’s definitely changing. It’s changing slowly. This is a long term issue we’re dealing with.”

Bellingar said each vineyard experiences each extreme weather event differently. She says the wine community is constantly discussing with each other about how these extreme weather events are impacting one another. Down the road as temperatures rise, Oregon may see more warm climate grapes being planted.

“We’ll also see other tactics combat rising temperatures like planting at higher elevations, sights that are a little bit more north facing that can be cooler and better protected,” Bellingar said.

Whether it’s a mid-spring cold snap or a mid-summer heat wave, Bellingar is certain the wine industry will adapt. She said climate change is impacting all aspects of the agriculture industry.

“I think it’s important to continue to check in with those agriculture enterprises,” Bellingar said. “They do have an impact on the economics of the state and if you love wine it should matter to you.”

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