Cold snap causes concern in southern Arizona’s wine country

Wine Country worries with freeze

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - For Kent Callaghan, it’s too late in the season for a cold snap in southern Arizona.

“If you’re not worried, you’re stupid," Callaghan said.

Worried, at least for his business. Callaghan is the owner and winemaker at Callaghan Vineyards in Elgin. The freeze warning late Monday night, May 20, into the next morning was not something he expected in the middle of May.

“Basically, if we can get to May 1st, we generally think we are fine, which we did," Callaghan said. "But, this is the latest frost potential I’ve seen in 30 years and I don’t know if it’s been seen in anyone’s lifetime, to be honest.”

While he worried about the low temperatures, Callaghan hoped the wind would keep up overnight. While strong winds could break the green shoots that will sprout this year’s grapes, he said the windy conditions can also help.

“If the wind dies, you’re not getting that kind of protection," Callaghan said.

Callaghan said the wind pushes the warmer air down and around the vineyard. If the speeds slowed down, he could turn on a large fan on the 25-acre property to help funnel the warm air onto the plants.

If a bad frost were to hit, it could ruin the shoots and stop the growth of the wine grapes. But, Callaghan said the freeze wouldn’t truly be felt for a few years.

“A year for whites and rose. Two years, two and a half to three for reds,” Callaghan said. “It would impact it some point downstream.”

With 30 years in the business, Callaghan said they have built up a supply hopes the cold won’t keep him replacing these cases, when they clear out.

A frost has hurt the vineyard before. Callaghan said they survived two tough years, back-to-back. In 2010, he said they lost about 85-percent of the crop and then in 2011, they lost about 50-percent of the crop to a freeze in the beginning of May.

“There’s not much else we can do. It’s not fun, but it’s happened before and we’ve survived. So we’ll roll with the punches and hopefully it own’t be that bad," Callaghan said.

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