Workers tend to vines at Del Rio Vineyards and Winery Saturday. Frost and snow have vintners and orchardists worried about this year’s crop of grapes, pears and peaches. - Jamie Lusch

'We are on alert here'

Ron Meyer slept with one eye fixed on a digital thermometer beside his bed Friday night.

Meyer, owner of Meyer Orchards in Talent, said he hasn't had the misfortune of seeing a killing frost in May during his half-century in the pear-growing business.

But the past few nights have made him plenty nervous that streak could come to a devastating end.

"We are on alert here," Meyer said. "We have the machinery in place to protect ourselves if we have to."

Temperatures dropped to 33 degrees at his 115-acre orchard Friday night, just warm enough to keep his peaches and pears from harm, he said.

"The fruit can stand that temperature," Meyer said. "We could go as low as 31 degrees, but I wouldn't want them to see anything much below that."

Meyer was prepared to turn large outdoor fans onto his crop Friday, but the cloud cover was enough to keep the temperatures in the safety zone.

"Who knows what it might do (Saturday night)?" he said. "I have a digital readout of the temperature beside my bed. I will keep an eye on it."

Meyer wasn't the only local farmer keeping a wary eye on the thermometer this weekend.

Del Rio Vineyards owner and manager Rob Wallace ran wind machines and sprinklers on his Gold Hill crop Friday night to keep the frost away.

"We saw the low 30s out here," Wallace said. "The grapes can take 30 degrees without much damage, but it's not something we like to see in May."

Wallace said he had helicopters on standby if the temperatures dropped into the 20s. In the past, Wallace has flown helicopters directly over his grapes to keep a steady warming breeze pressing down on the vineyard.

"We didn't have to do it this time around, but who knows what the weather is going to do," he said.

Temperatures across the Rogue Valley dropped to the low 30s Friday night, with more chilly nights on the way, according to the National Weather Service.

A low-pressure front that settled over the Pacific Northwest in the past two weeks has kept temperatures unseasonably low, said meteorologist Rick Holtz.

"The pattern has brought a frost advisory into (this morning)," Holtz said. "It does look like these colder conditions are not going to last very long."

Holtz said temperatures should begin rising by Monday, with highs predicted in the mid-60s and lows in the 40s.

The low-pressure system will remain throughout next week, though, keeping the threat of rain until next weekend, Holtz said.

The weather service predicts mostly sunny skies today and Monday. That is welcome news for local orchard keepers and vineyard operators such as Mark Wisnovsky, owner of Valley View Winery in Jacksonville.

"We don't mess around this time of year when it gets this cold," Wisnovsky said. "These young leaves are more susceptible to damage this early in the season."

Wisnovsky said vineyard growth is lagging behind where it should be.

"No question about it, we are seeing very little growth because of these cloudy days," he said.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or e-mail

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