What’s going on with the weather,is this a part of the curse known as “Global Warming”? Whatever it is I don’t like it. First, the season started with unusually cooler weather with occasional rains which are very rare in May in this region. And now we have the longest heat wave and extreme fluctuations in the temperature. During the growing season I routinely check the temperatures in my vineyard. This year one day in June I measured 68 degrees as the maximum temperature; and just last week, on August 20th it was a blazing 117 degrees.
This heat wave is creating fires and power outages with devastating effects for everyone. Groups of fires are burning on all sides of the San Francisco Bay Area. The National Weather Service issued a “red flag” warning through tomorrow afternoon, Monday August 24, due to the extreme fire conditions created by dry thunderstorms, high temperatures, low humidity and gusty winds up to 65 miles per hour. This is happening in August, my friends.
First let me point out the distinction between climate and weather. Climate refers to general conditions that have a pattern of consistency for a specific region, while weather is better used for temporary conditions that might or might not be unusual. The questions are how these erratic weather patterns are affecting our grape crop this year and whether this pattern will be a way of life for the future. Don’t believe if anyone tells you that this is a temporary situation and the weather will normalize. Unfortunately, this is here to stay, and my prediction is that it will get worse.
Listen to this! According to the World Meteorological Organization our planet is on course to experience an increase in the average daily temperature of 5.76 degrees F by the end of the century. While for people our age the end of the century may seem like the end of the world, think about our great grandchildren, what kind of world they will be inheriting from us.
As for the effect of the weather on this year’s harvest, the rains early in the season created an insurmountable quantity of vegetation, covering our vineyards with ugly weeds and excessive amounts of shoots and leaves on the vines, requiring way more hand labor to make the vineyard normal looking.
Earlier in the season, before the onset of this heatwave, I would have predicted that harvest would be coming late this year. Veraison, the change of color in grapes which is a landmark in the development of the fruit on the vines, started at least one week later than normal. My earlier prediction was that harvest would begin at least 2 weeks late, towards the end of September. This heat spike has changed everything. It created a problematic situation, causing the fruit to overripen quickly and some to even dehydrate. From having an abundance of water in the soil early in the season, now the vines are yearning for water and I can’t supply enough.
The first varieties to undergo veraison were Syrah and Tempranillo, with Zinfandel a distant second while the last one was Cabernet Franc and all the others in between. I am anticipating that the Syrah and Tempranillo will be harvested around the middle of September. Let’s not forget the Sauvignon Blanc which is probably a week away from harvest.
Maybe I didn’t sound so positive about the prospects of this year’s harvest. This is far from what I truly believe. Every year we have challenges, some more difficult than others and some outside of our control. We face these challenges with confidence, hard work and a positive attitude. And we have been making great wines from year one in 2001. We will not change our course no matter what the challenges.