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TUESDAY TRIBUTES
06/27/2017
Oh My Goodness, It’s A Normal Year in California Vineyards
      ~~So Far

By Charles Olken

I’m not of a believer in superstition. I walk under ladders and don’t sweat it when I spill salt, and so have no worries that I am going to jinx my winemaker friends who tell me that so far all is well in their vineyards. Even the intense heat of the last week seems not to have shattered (pun intended—drop me a note if you need it explained) their hopes for a “normal” year.

Now, “normal” in 2017 is not what it was a couple of decades ago. One winemaker admitted as much when he said, “we are planning to start picking” before September and that is about two weeks earlier than it used to be for the same grapes at the same levels of ripeness. He called it “the new normal”. And, what he means is that things are proceeding apace with no bad news at this point and no signs that harvest will be a challenge.

I did not have the heart to tell him that we have had cold spells through August and September that have pushed harvest times in October and even in mid-November at times, and we have had heat spells that have ripened everything at once leading to 24-hour days on the crush pad and some grapes simply hanging out past their due dates. And then there is rain. Even he can remember 2011 when wineries were pushed to try techniques not usually seen in California to get past underripe grapes, molds, lack of concentration and the like.

So, yes, things are normal, and fingers crossed, they will stay that way. But stay tuned, winelovers. This is still June.


 

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Comments

No Subject
by Anonymous
Posted on:6/27/2017 2:45:42 PM

I can't say I agree that summer hail and multi-day heat events in the 108 deg F range in June count as "normal" for California viticulture.  We've experienced both within the past 3 weeks of this growing season so far and it has been devastating. I've seen pictures on Facebook of ancient vines with pink, dessicated clusters in the heat as well as vines with their canopies stripped off from marble-sized hail during bloom. We should expect a dimished harvest even if the rest of the growing season is perfectly text book for typical California growing condiditions.

Anonymous
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:6/27/2017 2:54:13 PM

Where are you? No need to say your affiliation if you don't want to as long as you are reporting about conditions we can pinpoint more accurately than statewide.

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