Frost damage advice offered at seminar

For vineyards suffering from recent frost damage, the Independent Grape Growers of the Paso Robles Area is holding a seminar Tuesday.

How to Manage a Frost-Damaged Vineyard will run 1:30 to 4 p.m. at Silver Horse Winery, 2995 Pleasant Road in San Miguel.

Free for members and $20 for nonmembers, it will include practical information about recovering from frost damage and discussion about the potential for a disaster declaration to offset financial loss.

Speakers will include viticulture professor Keith Patterson of Cal Poly, Jennifer Anderson of the USDA Farm Services Agency and Chief Deputy Agricultural Commissioner Brenda Ouwerkerk.

Organizer Lowell Zelinski of Precision Ag Consulting will discuss the factors that made this unusual frost so damaging, even to those who used sprinklers and wind machines for frost protection.

“What they (farmers) are wanting to know is the amount of damage done,” said Richard Sauret, president of the growers’ group.

In addition to widespread damage in early April that extended as far as King City, another frost on May 1 “hit some of the lower lying areas and got nipped again.”

Sauret estimates ripening was already about two weeks delayed for most varietals before the April frost. Waiting for secondary or tertiary budding could push harvest into November, when rains and cold weather can damage crops.

Another workshop on frost recovery will be planned for early June. Zelinski said it will also include tips for protecting workers from heat illness in the summer.

To attend, call Precision Ag at 434-3331 or email

Hospice du Rhône

The annual Hospice du Rhône festival brought more than 130 producers and importers to Paso Robles last weekend — including a larger than typical French contingent.

“We had over 30 French producers in attendance,” said Faith Wells, communications director for the 19th annual celebration of varietals that originally stem from the Rhône Valley in France. “We’re trying to promote the entire international community of Rhône varieties.”

Others came from Australia, South Africa, Spain and various regions of the United States. The focus is to share information and celebrate the 22 varieties in this category, including syrah, grenache and viognier.

With the main festival concluded, the organization is turning its attention to its second annual gathering at Blackberry Farm in Tennessee.

May 19 through 22, producers from Washington, Spain and Switzerland and Arroyo Grande’s own John Alban will be featured at the 4,200-acre farm and lodge in the Smoky Mountains.

Could this secondary event signal more travels or satellite events for the local organizers?

“I see the annual Hospice du Rhône always happening here in Paso Robles,” Wells added. But “there is definitely the opening for us to travel around if the right opportunity presents itself.”

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