Patricia Dinsmore - Wine Writer, Event Planner and Wine Consultant



When Mother Nature throws a curve ball

Posted on May 15, 2013 at 2:35 PM

Owning a winery is hard work – it is the life of a farmer and those who have decided to pursue this career path have to be dedicated to their craft.  Mother Nature plays such a huge role in any type of farm – it can determine when certain things have to take place and it can wreak major havoc at this time of the year if the temperature decides to drop after a warm spell.  Back a few weeks ago, when we experienced a nice warm spell the vines started to kick into gear and bud burst did occur in most regions of Ontario.  We loved those warmer temperatures – it was,after all, a very long and cold winter with a lot of major snow storms – but then Mother Nature decided that we needed a bit of a temperature drop this past Monday night into Tuesday morning.  In order to protect those buds that did pop up, because that is what will become the grapes that are harvested this coming fall, the winemakers and grape growers of Prince Edward County had to kick into action and take some extra steps to protect those vines.  Some wineries have opted to use the wind machines that the wineries of Niagara likes to use but, in a lot of cases, to protect the vines, the winemakers and winery owners and grape growers spend the night in the vineyard burning piles of hay and brush to keep the vines warm.  This is their story; this is what a lot of them spent the night doing this past Monday.  Let’s start by taking a look at some of the pictures that were taken throughout the night and posted to Twitter and Facebook by this group of dedicated people


Richard Karlo at Karlo Estates starting the first fires of the night in his vineyard.


First burn pile at Lacey Estates Vineyard & Winery.


The flames are already well in action and there is a nice layer of smoke forming which is why this picture is fuzzy.  The smoke is needed to trap the heat from the flames and keep it close to the ground where it will protect the vines and the buds from the cold air that lingers just above the smoke.  Kimball Lacey from Lacey Estates said that their first burn started around 1am on Tuesday morning and at 6am when all of us were getting ready for work, they were finally entering positive temperatures and were in the clear for the night.  Throughout the night people dropped by to see how everyone was doing and there was a steady stream of tweets using the hashtag #pecfrost showing everyone’s progress through the night.  Here are a few photos that were being shared:


Friends from other wineries dropping by Lacey Estates Vineyard and Winery just as the sun is starting to rise over the vineyards.



An active burn pile at Norman Hardie Winery.  You can see the layer of smoke over the vineyard at the back of the pictures as it works to stop the cold air from settling around the vines.


Sunrise over the Lacey Estates Vineyard.  It has been a long night and everyone involved deserves a long nap…and a hearty breakfast.

The wonderful thing about the wineries tweeting the pictures and posting them to Facebook is how it truly connects them with us who love their wines.  As I was seeing these pictures appear in my Twitter feed and I was reaching out to the wineries to see how the night went, I was also involved in a conversation with a couple of other people –including a local weather guy – and we were all sharing the same sentiment that by connecting on Facebook and Twitter connects us outsiders with their world and the dedication and perseverance it takes to do what they do.  We are all truly appreciative of the efforts they went through as they walked the vineyards in freezing cold temperatures and went without sleep to make sure their grapes make it through to harvest time in the fall.  Let’s take one last look at those pictures and see the end results.



From left to right, Richard Karlo at Karlo Estates surveys the vineyards at sunrise; Andrew Gray and Charles Lacey of Lacey Estates taking a well deserved break as the sun rises over the vineyard; the buds the next morning –first at Karlo Estates and second at Lacey Estates.  These vineyards are only a couple of kilometres apart and only time will tell if there is damage.  They look all clear at this point so fingers crossed that they have survived to grow into grapes for harvest this fall.


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Reply Patricia Szymanowski
3:44 PM on May 15, 2013 
Thanks Greg. It is a hard road and not something any of them relish doing but their dedication does not go unnoticed with those of us who love their wines.
Reply Greg Houghton
3:17 PM on May 15, 2013 
Hi Pat,

Great blog post on the dedication that the owner's of these wineries have to go through during the planting season so they can reap a healthy harvest. I have a real appreciation for this industry after reading your post...

Well done :)


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