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Vintage Weather May Lead to New Crops for Local Grape Grower

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PINE LEVEL — The unseasonably warm weather we are experiencing is nice enough to fool Mother Nature. It is also confusing for farmers planning their crops. But one local grape grower is hoping to harvest a bountiful crop from winter's reprieve.

It is pruning season, and Tony Torres is busy turning dried grapevines into decorative wreaths at the Hinnant Farms vineyard in Pine Level. If several acres of an experimental grape crop pan out, he will be spending more time out in the field.

"It would be tremendous to have a double crop," says vineyard owner Freddie Creech.

Creech says warmer than usual winters this year, and in years past, prompted the test.

"We'd be selling grapes earlier, much earlier. And it's always better to get our grapes on the market earlier," she says.

Experts say a spring-like pattern in winter could be a sign of a long, hot summer.

"We could be in a drought situation again next summer, next fall. Go ahead and prepare for it now," suggests assistant state climatologist Ryan Boyles. "Don't use your water as freely as you might knowing that the reservoirs, come next summer, may be very low again."

The possible dry conditions might be good for grapes, but other farmers could be in for a rough summer ahead.

Boyle says the unseasonably warm winter and possible drought conditions are due to the weather phenomenon known asLa Niña.

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Ken Smith, Reporter
Chad Flowers, Photographer
Michelle Singer, Web Editor

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