Sunday, September 19, 2010

1984 all over again


It is 1984 all over again. Everything except Big Brother. Oh, wait--we have that now, too!
That year, the cold, lasting Fall rains came early and often to Oregon, sealing the doom of any hope of grapes ripening.
Beaverton/Hillsboro sits at 1500 cumulative Growing Degree Days (heat units), which is about 25% less than this time last year. We've had weeks now of mostly cool, cloudy, sometimes wet weather, and last night a winter-style storm blasted us for several hours with heavy rain.
Worse, the heat units we've gotten lately are deceiving. It's been warm enough (thanks to the "Pineapple Express" weather from Hawaii), but no sun.
It may already be too late, by September 19, to wish for anything approaching normal ripening. I wish this was just a local phenomenon but sadly this is happening up and down the Pacific coast, from B.C. to WA to OR to CA. Even Walla Walla and Red Mountain have gotten only partial veraison, which is very, very late--and they are in the desert! I was told by several folks in CA last weekend that some growers in Sonoma have already conceded a zero harvest. Wow.
One friend near Salem OR has his chin up. Not mentioning his Pinot noir grapes, he reassures us that his Viognier and Syrah will be OK; they won't be harvested until November. Some growers hold their Riesling until then, too. But I think those varieties have thick, tough skins. Pinot noir does not. There's only so much wet weather it can stand before the berries split, or rot. That point may be coming soon.
If wines are to be made from Pinot this year, and if this weather keeps up, many of them will be roses. I haven't had my first good PN rose yet.
One year does not a climate trend make, but let's lift a glass to hoping that next year is better. And how many debt-extended wineries are going to meet their Maker this year, with a low or zero crop?

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