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An unwanted return to winter

The unprecedented warmth that ended last week with 16-degree lows in parts of our mountain region was especially unwelcome for us. We have 2 acres of wine grapes and Asian pears. Below 27 degrees is usually enough to do serious damage this time of year.

After that fortnight of heat, fruiting plants were fooled into beginning to grow, pushing out green shoots. If killing cold returns — zap — the vintage’s fruit is gone.

Our last frost date is considered May 1. That’s about when grapevines bud out. For 13 years after we planted, the last frost was as early as April 27 and as late as May 16 — the year we lost everything.

But things are changing. Three years ago, a brutal winter ended in a fast spring, which comes even faster at our southwest-facing vineyard, we planted to maximize the sun’s spring-time as well as autumnal rays. After several days in the 70s, despite snow-pack in the valley, budding was April 15 in 2010. Last year, it was April 8. Then this year…

Friends called and wrote all day with support. I made piles of green/damp wood before dark around the vineyard. When the alarm buzzed at 1:30 Tuesday morning, it was 29 degrees, so I lit the bonfires, to make heat to create wind and smoke. Between the three, the idea is to ward off frost in a race till dawn, though on this windless night it all seemed to go straight up.

From 4 a.m. till the rooster called one farm over, it was 24 degrees. I went in for free-range egg and coffee thinking wipe-out.

Yet somehow, we escaped damage.

Maybe, I wondered, our Earth will adjust to the wickedness of climate change by altering temperature at which plants freeze! Science would say it was the super-dry air. Maybe my effort paid off. Maybe my friend, a state legislator whom I know has special powers, is right: she thinks it was her prayer.

I cannot possibly be sure.

BizBuzz Best Buys

Red: Protocolo 2009 Castilla (Spain). This old-vine Tempranillo, with its boysenberry flavors and zesty aroma of violets, hot rocks, and rosemary, was our go-to winter-time red, from braised beef with vegetables to pizza. It’s about $8 in area stores.

White: Domaine Daniel Pollier 2010 Macon-Villages (France). A surging, thrilling Chardonnay with pear, apple, and light cream flavors that dance on the palate. Perfect for Spring’s first outdoor dinners. About $11.