06/11/07 — Some rain helped, but drought a problem for local winemaker

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Some rain helped, but drought a problem for local winemaker

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on June 11, 2007 1:45 PM

Strawberries are in the works. Blueberries are a no-go, and peaches are a maybe.

Linda Hall at A Secret Garden Winery on Airport Road said her grapes benefited from a recent soaking rain, but they need more.

That was a blessing," she said. "We really needed that rain."

It's too early to tell how much damage an early freeze did to the grapes. There have been peach crop losses from the freeze, but she said she saw a few of the fleshy fruit the other day at a produce stand.

"We've got some strawberry wine going on now, and I'm hopeful about the peaches, but skeptical about blueberries," she said.

So far, the grapes seem to be proliferating. The vines have plenty of buds, which will turn into grapes later in the season.

"They were beautiful before Easter weekend, and everything had greened out. But it all turned brown (after the freeze). Fortunately, we had no split vines, and we didn't lose any vines."

But she won't know until later in the growing season when the grapes start forming just how much damage resulted from the freeze. The season began in early spring and continues through to late September.

She had been irrigating the grapes growing next to her winery to pull them through the dry weather.

"They do better with rainwater, which has nutrients for plants. We have a couple of barrels collecting all the rain we can get, and during a lightening storm, you get even more nutrients," she said.

Muscadines love sunshine and rain, and they need the rain at the right time, and Ms. Halll makes sure the grapes get plenty of water until about a month from harvest.

Then, she prays for dry weather.

At such a critical time, if they get too much rain, the grapes will fill up with water and won't be as sweet as they should be.