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Grape growers prepare for freeze potential

5:30 PM, Mar 26, 2013   |    comments
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The second week of April: the week grape growers in East Tennessee can breathe a sigh of relief.

Between April 7 and 20 is normally the end of the freeze season, according to the UT Extension office. However, there are still a few weeks ahead that are causing some concern for wineries in the area.

"There are so many micro-climates in East Tennessee within the same mile radius," said agent Neal Denton.

Tuesday is another day of freeze warnings for some 20 East Tennessee counties, as more snow and cold temperatures settle in.

The last true freeze Knox County saw was Thursday, March 21,  which did result in some damage in other tender crops, like peaches and blueberries, according to the Extension.

"As those blooms fill with water and begin to get more mature, then they're more susceptible to cold temperatures. So the warm we had hurt what had started in that direction," Denton added.

However, some grape growers said a recent warmup, followed by the cold, is not helping things.

"We're praying for better weather this year; we need a good crop," said Connie Perrin with Richland Vineyard in Blaine.

She said last year's late freeze ultimately lead to a loss of 90% of their first round of grapes. The first round is usually the best crop for wine-making.

"We would rather stay warm and not get cold anymore. That's bad for the grapes," Perrin said.

However, Neal Denton thought the overall crop damage so far is "minimal."

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