Recently a number of you have asked me what effect the warmer than usual weather will have on this season's harvest. It's a great question and for answers I went right to the source: our growers and winemakers. Again I am reminded of the great relationship that exist between Locals and the wineries. Our wineries were generous and forthcoming with their views. I have summarized their responses below--I learned a great deal and hope you will find this information to be as interesting as I did.
Generally, the sense is that the warmer weather should not be a big problem as long as we cool down again soon and get more rain. Extended warm spells can spell problems with insects wintering over and can also mean larger populations/concentrations taking hold in neglected vineyards--and then they can spread. However a week or two of nice weather won't be too bad.
Some of you may have noted that a lot of vines are yet to be pruned. This may be due to crews getting behind because of January rains - or postponing pruning so as to avoid any spring freeze. Recently pruned vines are in a state of shock for a few weeks (they won't bud out), but the warm weather means they bleed a little sap and this drains their energy for later growth further still. Growers who have already pruned are hoping it cools back down for a bit - and we get more rain.
One winemaker noted that we usually have a warm up spell most Februarys anyways. It’s not that uncommon. Having said that, vines really get growing more when the soil temperatures get elevated. Since we’ve had enough decent rain this year to help maintain the soil temperatures, growth really won’t kick off as early as last year when the soil was dryer. While some vineyards might see slightly earlier growth than the mean it's unlikely to be as early as last year--and nothing to worry about.
One winemaker noted that there really is no “normal” growing season any more. The objective is to make sure things are pruned and tied and ready for the growing season one way or another.
"Vine budbreak looks to be on track with last years, a bit earlier than normal" added another winemaker. "No big deal, except if your vineyard is susceptible to frost and frost season happens to start a couple of weeks early. And early budbreak does not necessarily mean early harvest--if we have a cool, rainy spring, shoot growth and bloom would be delayed and harvest pushed back. Last year bloom was very early, again because of the the late Winter warmth and relative lack of rain. If vines bud out early followed by cool/rainy spring fungus/bacterial disease is a threat."
For me, this information reminds me that growing grapes is both an art and a science, with crops subject to myriad variables. Each year brings new challenges and opportunities to test the knowledge and creativity of the winemakers. And each year they rise to the occasion bringing us unique and exciting wines!