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The tornado and associated hail threatens our North Canterbury vineyards

Last Sunday afternoon was a peaceful one; spent at a friend’s place in Gore Bay, oblivious to the weather warnings about a ‘super cell’ or super storm brewing to the south of us.

That evening as we travelled back into the Valley from the north an enormous cloud was tracking towards us from the south. It was ominous-looking, all purple, black, even shades of deep green, with two distinct layers within it.

The tornado and associated hail threatens our North Canterbury vineyards

As we came closer messages arrived about a tornado touching down south of Amberley. It never ceases to amaze me the speed at which information can travel when it needs to through close-knit communities. We pulled immediately into Black Estate where friends were looking after our daughter, but even by the time we got to the top of the hill where the cellar door sits, it was obvious the storm was upon us.

We battled the wind to get through the door, the view across and down the Valley from their living area was both magnificent and terrifying. The Tongue in Groove pinot noir vineyard sits next to Black Estate and we watched as the wind tore across the nets around us, lifting and spilling them over each other and onto the headlands. The enormous cloud bore down on us, the rain splattered and we collectively held our breaths, waiting for the hail we’d heard was coming. We knew it would destroy the now exposed grapes and take any hope of a successful vintage with it.

It was one of those surreal moments when you realise you are nothing more than a tiny pawn in a massive, extraordinarily complex game. It felt as if we’d been given front row seats to the end of our world, at least for this growing season. The strange thing is, when you’ve been through things like earthquakes , you don’t get de-sensitised to those moments. Rather you become acutely aware of the possibility of things moving distinctly out of your control, beyond the point of no return.

So it was with an amazing amount of calmness, as the massive windows we were standing in front of began to move in & out with the ferocity of the wind, that we all stood back tearing ourselves away from the mesmerising drama unfolding before us.

And then the wind stopped, and we all expelled the breath we’d been holding. We’d been spared, the whole grape growing part of the Valley. The tornado and cloud had tracked east, out to sea. The Teviotdale hills which protect us from the easterly off the Pacific Ocean had stood sentinel once again against a devastating weather system, and the golf-ball sized hail that has slammed houses, pastures and vegetable growers to the south of us had gone with it.

As I write this, the sun is benevolently shining, the nets are re-attached and the ripening continues. I am left contemplating why we do this. We cultivate the land, and with it all our hopes and dreams, and yet we have no real control at all over the outcome. Good friends who are organic vegetable growers have lost their livelihood for the season. Why don’t we all give up and produce something that isn’t so exposed to the elements? We all could be/have been lawyers, medical professionals, teachers. Why do we feel compelled to create something from the earth?

I don’t think I have an answer. I’m wondering if anyone does?

27/02/2014 By:
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