While Delta was flooding from the heavy storms that struck the county on Friday, July 26, parts of Surface Creek got hailed on. Stoney Mesa Winery’s prized Merlot vineyard, which sits just south of the Cedaredge winery a couple of miles, suffered heavy damage with an estimated 60-70% loss.
“All I can do is to try to keep the vines as healthy as possible so we can have another shot next year,” posted owner and winemaker Bret Neal to the winery Facebook page. “I will assess closer harvest if we will even pick.”
Neal has been growing grapes for 30 years and knows to anticipate hazards and some loss each season. While frost is a common culprit, this is the first time he experienced hail damage.
Last year another of Neals’ vineyards in Delta County couldn’t be harvested because the drought resulted in the fruit not developing properly. Though the winery buys some fruit each year, two tough seasons — near record drought followed by unusually high precipitation — means purchasing more than anticipated.
Splitting up crops helps lower risk, which is why he has two vineyards in Delta County and two in Mesa County, said Neal. “We hope to never lose 100 percent.” Immediately following the damage Neal sourced out some Mesa County fruit to ensure adequate supplement.
Unfortunately, he didn’t have crop insurance. “I’ve been trying for several years to get this particular vineyard that got damaged insured,” he said. But no insurer covers wine grapes in Delta County.
Since business is risky without it, Neal is trying to work with an insurance company to open the door for Delta County wine grape growers.