Friday T-storm damages vineyard

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 5, 2011

By Sarah Campbell
SALISBURY — Labor Day weekend had a different meaning to Ben and Alex Yost this year.
It didn’t mean a day off or a three-day weekend. In fact, it was just the opposite.
The pair, along with at least six others, spent Saturday, Sunday and Monday at Cauble Creek Vineyard working to salvage the grape vines knocked to the ground by a heavy storm that passed through the area recently. They worked from daybreak to dusk each day.
Anita Yost, co-owner of the vineyard, said roughly 800 vines, spread across about 5 acres, were pummeled to the earth as strong winds ripped through the field shortly after 6 p.m. Friday.
She said all but 40 escaped serious damage, which is remarkable given so many vines were down.
And little of the grape crop was lost. The harvest should be able to proceed as scheduled in two to three weeks, she said.
She said as she and husband, Biff, surveyed the damage to almost two-thirds of their crop, they felt hopeless.
But as word of the damage spread, family and friends started calling to see what they could do.
“That’s what’s great about a small community,” Anita Yost said.
They worked to save the vines by replacing the metal support poles that snapped like toothpicks. They pulled the heavy plants off the ground and put them back onto the wiring that holds them in place.
“We are really fortunate that the wind just laid them down and didn’t tangle them up or anything,” Anita Yost said.
The work was completed by 2 p.m., just before heavy rains swept through the region as the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee began to drop wind and rain. The family was hoping no further damage would occur.
Ben Yost said it takes at least seven people to lift each vine, which he estimates weights about 500 pounds.
“If it’s not 500 pounds, it sure feels like it,” he said.
Anita Yost said she’s thankful friends and family reached out to help.
“It would be impossible for just me and Biff to do all this work.”
Ben Yost, Anita’s nephew, said he didn’t think twice about lending a hand when he heard about the storm damage.
“Family helps family,” he said. “That’s the bottom line.”
Alex Yost, Anita’s son, said he came home from North Carolina State University to make sure things at the vineyard were OK.
“This is my future, this is what I’m going to college for,” he said.
Anita Yost said the vineyard will harvest between 23 and 25 tons of grapes from the vines.
“We’re fortunate the grapes are not ripe yet. When they are really ripe they just fall right off,” she said. “A lot of the fruit has stayed on the vine so we still have a big volume to work with.
It would likely cost between $10,000 and $12,000 per acre to replace the vines, which would be double the original purchase price from four years ago, Yost said.
“Financially it’s better to try to save them because it would be virtually impossible to replace them,” she said.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.