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Harvesting Season Cut Short for Melrose Vineyard Following Storms

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Moonlight Vineyard in Melrose has been growing sweet grapes to produce white wine for more than a decade. But after Saturday's strong storms, the family farm is left with torn leaves and damaged fruits.

Bobby Zirbes and her husband, Chad, own the vineyard.

"Devastating for us. We work all summer long and then we come home to this," Bobby said. "We were probably about two weeks out from harvest."

Volunteers near and far showed up Sunday to help the couple salvage the remaining grapes.

"In the grape-growing community, there's also a lot of comradery, not a lot of competition," Chad said. "It's 'lets help each other out and make it better.' It's very heartwarming."

Some volunteers stayed for as long as four hours to help clean up the mess the storm caused.

"The grapes were starting to grow nice," said Megan Gaebel, a family friend. "Unfortunately ... [they] all have to be cut because of the storm. They're super small, but yeah, this year would have been a good crop for them."

Harvesting Grapes at Moonlight Vinyard in Melrose after August storm
(credit: CBS)

"Half of their field was destroyed. All the leaves, a lot of the grapes were knocked down," Hazel Zirbes said.

Volunteers were able to gather about 6,000 pounds of grapes. Chad said that number is preliminary, as he won't know the total amount until the winery weighs it.

Chad estimates roughly 2,000 to 2,500 pounds of grapes were lost in the storm. According to an enologist at Cornell University, one ton of grapes produces roughly 160 gallons of wine.

"The characteristic and chemistry isn't there, but the winery's going to try to make something with them to at least help us not lose the whole season," Chad said. "We're very fortunate."

Chad said it's the first time a storm has ruined their crops, but he hopes his grapes can still produce quality wine.

"A lot of good wines come from accidents, too, so maybe it will be a blessing in disguise [laughs]!" he said.

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