Oh, Hail No!


What a difference a couple of months makes.  Back in January, we were sunny and 70’s, looking at the probability of extreme water rationing.  I devoted a post to the rain deficit and it’s consequences and subsequent posts made a plea for rain.  It seems to have worked (sure, I’ll take some of the credit) as due to about 6 good storms since February, we are at our 19 year normal starting January 1, 2014 to today and already have more rain than we had all of last year.  While we are not completely out of the woods, the rain has certainly helped us breath a sigh of relief.

Ah-not so fast.

As I have mentioned, due to that lovely spell of mild weather (oh, the irony), we are 2-3 weeks ahead  of schedule on the growing season and already have one to four inches of new growth on the vines, which means there are definite, visible leaves.   The problem is, precipitation at this time of year has a good likelihood of coming down as hail, or even snow- neither of which is good for the young, tender leaves.

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This is what it looked like in Napa today.  I passed 3 car accidents in-between 2 exits on the highway.  Yes, those from outside of California are allowed to scoff.

As I write this, my dog is whining and cowering under the covers, due to the loud thunderstorm outside.  And, yes, with this thunderstorm came quite a bit of hail.  I’m sure you’ve seen the damage that the mid-west variety of hail can do to cars, so you can imagine what even pea-sized hail can do to tender leaves.  Not only will it punch holes through the leaves, but will also snap the terminal end of the vulnerable shoots.  This means secondary growth will start to compensate for the damage, leading to an uneven canopy later in the year.  In some cases, the damage can be so bad that the vineyard is completely denuded of green growth.


The other white stuff we worry about is snow.  To have snow, you need freezing temperatures and I’ve gone over the dangers of frost in a previous post if you’re in the mood to revisit the subject.  A light dusting wouldn’t be the end of the world, but just two to three inches could cause entire shoots to snap off.  What it boils down to, no shoots, no grapes.  While snow is an unlikely event during April at Naggiar, with the crazy weather we have been having, anything is possible.  Just more things to keep a vineyard manager from a good night’s sleep during the spring.

Still, we prayed for rain- I guess we can’t complain about what form it takes!



About dwdirwin

Wife of Naggiar Vineyards winemaker Derek Irwin, mother to 4 active kids and one dog and newbie blogger!
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10 Responses to Oh, Hail No!

  1. Danielle, as a wine lover I will keep everything crossed that the hail storm didn’t damage those fragile leaves. Truly enjoy your blog.

    • dwdirwin says:

      Thank you so much, Barbara- I’m glad you enjoy reading it! We don’t often have thunderstorms so hopefully we’ve met our quota for the year :). As far as our grapes in Grass Valley, we weren’t affected by hail- the pictures I have in the post where the hail looks like snow were taken in Napa 🙂

  2. Oh my, understand the angst – hoping the vines make it through with minimal damage!

  3. What a reminder of all the different factors that affect grapes and wine. Best o luck as u go thru this!

    • dwdirwin says:

      Never a dull moment in any kind of agriculture! Seems like there’s always something to worry about but thankfully hail isn’t usually too much of an issue here.

  4. Once, while in Burgundy, I was in a hail storm with hail as big as a baseball! One of the more impressive things I have ever seen–and it wrecked incredible damage.

    • dwdirwin says:

      Yes, that picture of the decimated vineyard is of one in France. Europe and South America are typically more vulnerable to that kind of hail damage, more so than California.

  5. Hail can be so nasty! I hope not too much damage comes out of it all in the end…

  6. dwdirwin says:

    We get maybe 1 or 2 thunderstorms a year and rarely get hail- and not the large variety you see in other parts of the U.S. or Europe and South America- hopefully that was our one and done for the year 🙂

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