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The snows of April

Snow shrouded the Norway pines along the highway on Keyser’s Ridge near Deep Creek Lake, while the fields at 2,800 feet elevation were deep swirls. Snow-capped mountains met brilliant blue as far as the eye could see — serene, majestic, and white-cold.

This was Tuesday. April 24.

With spring snowstorms, it’s all about the elevation. After dropping my daughter off at middle school, where 15 inches fell, I headed home; Friendsville, at about 1,500 feet, got all rain. But, climbing again, the snow came back around 1,900 feet. At our winery and vineyard (2,100 feet), we got maybe 6 inches.

Nonetheless, it never got cold enough during the storm to hurt our vines and fruit trees. The grapes’ miniature chartreuse leaves look so pretty on a snowy background. A growing season that sputtered to life in mid-March has generated calamitous predictions blamed on global climate change. Our vines did in fact bud-out three weeks ahead of the historical norm, about the same as last year. But, despite numerous near-freezing nights, the vintage remains in play.

It was the heaviest late-season snow here in anyone’s memory, but in a place where my 87-year-old neighbor claims to have seen flakes every month of the year, my wife and I recall that it wasn’t our worst.

That would be 1997.

To finish our small winery that year, we arranged our vacation-time at our jobs in the city for the second week of May, figuring we’d be clear of frost for planting.

I also figured we wouldn’t need heat in the new, un-insulated building until fall.

For the 10 days we were there, it snowed every day. Accumulations? No, but the temperature never cleared 40. Nadine dug holes with a shovel and I planted all day, though blinding snow drove us indoors several times.

At night, out of the wind only, gallows humor sustained us, as we struggled to imagine we’d get to where we are now.

BizBuzz Best Buy Red: Chateau Grand Cassagne, Costieres de Nimes 2009 (France). A chunky hunk of blackberries, mint, plum and Provençal herbs, with a rustic yet elegant texture that does not disappoint with anything grilled or braised (slow-cooked lamb shank dusted with rosemary — definitely). Grenache-Syrah base. About $8.

Rosé: Domaine de la Petite Cassagne, Costieres de Nimes 2011 (France). No relation, except in value, to Grand Cassagne, this has been a favorite property since finding it five years old on close-out in Florida years ago. It ages beautifully. The 2012 will be out any day, yet the 2011 is still around. Juicy, creamy orange sherbert flavors, with a flowery, complex aroma that starts the summer party early. All the Rhone suspects, even Cinsault. About $9.