Life at 5,000’
October 1st, 2012
Peggy Fiandaca

Autumn brings change to everything around us. The change in the vineyard can be very abrupt like we had in 2009. The low temperatures for fall had been in the low 40s and then it dropped to the low 20s. The impact of that rapid change was devastating to the vineyard, particularly the young vines that were planted that spring. As a result we ended up replanting 2,000 vines in 2010.

Weather plays a major role in our life now. I was never a weather junkie until getting into growing wine grapes or living at 5,000 feet elevation.

We are growing high altitude grapes; one of the highest altitudes for wine grapes in the world.
   Lawrence Dunham Vineyards

With the altitude, there are a lot of challenges but many rewards. The volcanic soil composition from the nearby mountains, clean air, and sun concentration are incredible. However, wind gusts and air drafts off the Chiricahua Mountains have been difficult to figure. How can the center of a vineyard block that is about a one percent slope overall be the coldest and most prone to freeze. Amazing!

Winds off the Chiricahua Mountains have been an interesting phenomenon to understand. Almost every evening the vineyard experiences winds coming from the east that are contrary to the typical winds from the southwest.

These breezes are helpful during the growing season because they keep the vineyard cooler but can be a mixed bag during the spring.

They can bring unwanted cold air after bud break but can also provide air flow that limits damage that might occur at lower elevations.
   Lawrence Dunham Vineyards

Every time I come to the vineyard after being away for awhile, my body feels the impact of living a mile high in Arizona. For the first couple of days when working I am short of breath and get dehydrated more quickly.

It is a helpless feeling to be at the mercy of our mountain weather since it impacts so much of our life here and our business. We follow the weather closely and a lot of the vineyard decisions are made depending on the weather.

 Lawrence Dunham Vineyards
  Lawrence Dunham Vineyards has invested in a weather station that provides us reliable information about the vineyard and allows us to track the weather patterns over time.

While that doesn’t help us predict the weather, it does provide us valuable data to make important decisions based on past weather events and trends.

Though the weather is challenging, the worst thing about living at 5,000’ elevation is that I haven’t figured out the right baking time and temperature for my world famous chocolate chip recipe quite yet.
The recipe for the chocolate chip cookies is available at this link.