Frosty blast

Harcourt vignerons Ken Pollock and Ian McKenzie with their gas-fired frost fan at BlackJack Wines vineyard. Many winegrowers throughout the region are now welcoming the rain. Photo: Eve Lamb

Eve Lamb

Forecast rain is welcome news for many of the region’s winegrowers following a frosty weekend that produced a sleep-deprived night for some.
At Harcourt, winemaker Ian McKenzie, who operates BlackJack winery and vineyards with fellow vigneron Ken Pollock was alerted to the frost in the small hours of last Sunday morning via their weather station alert relayed via New Zealand.
“I get a phone call linked to the weather station,” said Ian – “we have three weather stations in the vineyard.”
With budburst just starting now at the Harcourt vineyard, the minus 1.4 degree frost that impacted around 3am on Sunday morning meant it was time to activate BlackJack’s trusty gas-fired frost fan.
“Frost can wipe out all the fruit and can also affect next year’s as well,” said Ken.
“The frost fan draws warm air in. It pulls the warm air in and mixes it with the cold.
“It sounds a bit like a helicopter. Some of the apple growers around here also have frost fans.”
Ian says they ran the vineyard frost fan for about four hours – a good move as they were able to effectively protect any tender new season’s vine growth with the fan able to cover and help protect 8000 vines growing over about 10 acres.
Ken and Ian say forecast rain is good news for BlackJack at this point.
“It’s a good start,” says Ian.
Sunday’s morning frost also meant a brisk start for Tim Sproal winemaker with Castlemaine’s Boomtown wines.
Tim was forced to get out to the vineyard he leases at Metcalf in the middle of the night to help protect tender new vine growth – by burning hay bales.
“I was there from 12 (midnight) to 3am burning haybales to create a warm air envelope,” said Tim who’s also busy putting out compost on the vineyard where budburst has already started. Read more in today’s Mail…