Vineyard Surprise Due to Climate Change?
After 22 years of vineyard
experience, I still find new surprises almost every year. This year was no
When winemaker Dimitri Tchelistcheff
and I toured the vineyard late in June, we discovered that the East side of the
vines had set the normal crop of grapes but the West side bunches were badly
shattered so that in some cases our crop on that side was reduced by over half.
This problem evidently occurred in
early June, just at the time the vines were finishing blossoming and starting
to “set” their crop. At that same time we experienced two days of 110°
temperatures in the vineyards, the first time this has happened so early in the
season. Our associate winemaker Steve Hall assumes this spike in temperature
was to blame for the shattering.
|A shattered West side cluster||A full East side cluster|
It would have been even worse but
when we planted the vineyards we oriented the rows about 17° away from true
North. This maximized the morning sun and lessened the hot afternoon sun. Since
the shattering was on the West side it was that hot afternoon sun which must
have caused the problem. Fortunately it was ameliorated by our row orientation.
I call this a surprise because our
vineyard is in the cool part of the Napa Valley. And our 1,000 foot altitude
makes it cooler yet so we are normally not hurt by warm weather.
Valley Vineyard just before harvest
In other respects, this year’s crop
is off to a good start, just smaller than usual due to the freak temperature
spike just at the wrong time.