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Viticulture,Wine,Wine Business

The Non-Summer of 2010

Here we sit in August, waiting for the heat. Actually, we also waited for spring to kick in, and thought that “at least summer will come around, and warm things up a bit.”

Well, were we ever wrong.

I can’t remember the last time I woke up in the morning, and the sun was actually shining. It’s taking until midday for the sun to shine; and by then, it’s not going to be too warm for the rest of the day… At least, it’s not going to be hot.

That’s what’s been missing from this year’s growth cycle; and as we near dates when harvest should be beginning, the grapes seem to be no where near ready.

The questions abound.

  • Will the grapes reach a great brix for harvesting?
  • Will a lower brix mean that we’ll finally not have a vintage with alcohol over 13.5 percent (I’d lone to see that, again.)
  • Will winemakers be able to make well balanced wines this year?
  • FERMENTATION: What does this survey of the recent meteorological trends mean? What’s the upshot of Northern California experiencing the summer that wasn’t? It means grape growers (and winemakers) are starting to get a little worried. Strike that. A lot worried.
  • ARTISAN FAMILY OF WINES: Is this going to be the vintage of the century? August 9th I’m asking this question somewhat facetiously, as every vintage, from the industry’s perspective, seems like it’s the vintage of the century. But this vintage, at the least, is going to be different. As anyone living in California knows, this has been a very cool year both for people and grapes.

Who knows… And, we won’t until the grapes are in and are fermented… to be able to get a handle on this.

That said, I decided to give you a bit of perspective from my backyard.

On the left is an image of a Zinfandel cluster just taken on August 9, 2010. On the right is a picture that I took of a Zin cluster on August 9, 2006.

You can see the center of the cluster on the left has lost some berries. That happened during the rains, when flowers were knocked off the rachis (skeleton that holds the berries in place). When that happens, the fruit that’s self pollinating, can’t pollinate and grow… So, I’ve lost some fruit. But, after looking at these two clusters, that may possibly still have the same amount of berries (older vine has a long rachis now), I’ve decided to let Mother Nature take over the worrying for me… This year’s clusters are still going through verasion at the right time.


7 Responses to “The Non-Summer of 2010”

  1. We’re all thinking along the same lines. We keep waiting for the hot weather to arrive, and it doesn’t. Here we are, mid-August, and Oakland can barely make it out of the 60s, while wine country seems to struggle to get much beyond the 70s or low 80s. Is that your experience, Jo? About ten degrees below average, consistently.

  2. Jon Bjork says:

    We’ve been about 10 degrees cooler than normal here in Lodi, plus we’ve had very few days where we climbed over 95. We wake up to sunny cool mornings in the mid-50’s. Certainly no one can call Lodi hot this year.

    Estimates range from 1.5 weeks to 3 weeks behind normal, depending on which grower you talk to. Most are doing very aggressive dropping of green clusters along with opening up canopies via leaf pulling. All things considered, we could be in a position to make some very nice wines with more significant acid and tannin this year.

  3. Jo Diaz says:

    Steve,

    It’s at least 10 to 15 degrees lower than average. The only “summer” I’ve felt was going back to Maine… And that’s insane, because Maine is (was) always colder than California for every single month. Everyone in my family was so excited, because they’re finally having a summer after years of having non-summers. I’m, therefore, thinking this is just a fluke, and will turn around, at some point.

    It’s a bit nuts, though… so, NOT Northern California… My feet are constantly cold. I like being barefooted… Not this summer.

  4. Jo Diaz says:

    Jon,

    All the way over to Lodi… It’s bizarre when a wine blog resorts to talking about the weather, because it’s the most fascinating thing going on…

    Thanks for the wine, by-the-way, that you gave to me at the Symposium. Very thoughtful of you!

  5. I’m confused – the zin grapes on the left (2010) already show veraison where those on the right (2006) don’t. Isn’t veraison a sign of further ripening? I would have expected the 2006 grapes to show more color change than this years. ???

  6. Jo Diaz says:

    The ones on the right (2006) have just touches of color beginning to change, on the lower left of that cluster. It’s barely beginning, when the ones on the left (2010) have even more going on.

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