Tuesday, August 24, 2010

MoreEats!: Living the Wine Life: Cold weather = unpredictable grape harvest

« Dining with Danielle: Brick & Bottle | Main

August 23, 2010

Living the Wine Life: Cold weather = unpredictable grape harvest

Doug Levy

Living The Wine Life with Doug Levy-

In case you hadn't noticed, the Bay area's weather has been a tad chillier than normal this year. For most of us, that just means putting on a sweater or turning on the heat. But odd weather can wreak havoc on agriculture, especially for the oh-so-sensitive wine grapes. Nonetheless, the first grapes of the 2010 California vintage will be picked this week in Napa and Sonoma.

One of the reasons California is so wine-grape friendly is our usual combination of wet winters, dry summers, and -- in most of the Wine Country -- just enough breeze coming off the Bay or ocean to moderate the warm daytime sunshine.

This year, not so much.

You may recall we had late rains -- into June. And much of August has had temperatures 10-15 degrees below normal.

Luckily, none of the rain was enough to drench the vineyards, but the cool temperatures are going to delay harvest. As "Wine Evangelist" Barbara Drady put it, "This year, we may be harvesting with Santa." (Read more about what she has seen along the Sonoma Coast on her blog here.)

The ultimate consequences of this weird weather won't be known for months, if not years, but here's what we know:

●    Most northern California grapes will be ready for harvest at least two or three weeks later than normal, perhaps more.

●    Many of the grapes have struggled to grow in the absence of heat and sun, so some of them will be smaller, with more intense flavor than usual.

●    If the fall rains start before harvesting has been completed (or started,) grapes remaining on the vines could become worthless very quickly due to mold and other spoilage.

I feel especially sorry for some of the growers in the parts of Mendocino County that suffered last year when grapes were damaged by smoke from wildfires. Much of the juice from those grapes was sold off to secondary wineries, since it was not of sufficient quality for many of the prime Pinot producers. So far, many winemakers are optimistic that this year's harvest will be a good one...eventually, but this year certainly proves that any kind of farming can be a risky business.

For those familiar with growing grapes in other regions of the world, coping with variable temperatures and frequent rain are part of the standard routine. Some of the best grapes grow in rainy parts of France, for example. But our New World wines, including the big bold Napa cabernets, the fruity Russian River Pinots and the Washington Syrahs all rely on moist, temperate winters and dry, sunny summers. Change that routine, and everything becomes unpredictable.

That's exactly what this year's harvest is.


Former USA Today reporter Doug Levy has lived in Marin since 2004 and spends a lot of his free time searching for great food and wine in Marin, and around the world. He is a free lance writer and public relations consultant, specializing in health care and life sciences. He'll be writing about wine in MoreMarin in a column called Living The Wine Life. Doug enjoys sharing his culinary observations which you can also read on his personal blog at http://wineandfoodworld.com/.

Posted by Pam Gould at 08:30 AM in Living The Wine Life, Wine, Beer and Cocktails | Permalink

This also was published to SFGate.com at http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/inmarin/detail?entry_id=70670.

Posted via email from Doug's posterous

No comments:

Post a Comment