How the Weather Impacted the Harvest

    Because Kendall-Jackson owns so many wineries and so much vineyard land, few companies are in as good a position to accurately assess a California harvest season.

     Our friend George Rose recently issued a report on the 2007 crush on behalf of K-J, and we’re happy to share it with you here…

     There is an old expression in meteorology: “cut-off low, weatherman’s woe.” This phrase is typically put into play by forecasters who are looking for forgiveness after their weather projections go haywire.

     A “cut-off low” is a low pressure weather system that breaks off from the main jet stream airflow and is most common here in California during the winter months. The Earth’s jet streams encircle the globe with tremendous force and are the main conveyor belt of our daily weather. When a large air flow gets cut-off from the jet stream, long-range forecasting becomes difficult and computer models predicting hourly, daily or weekly weather are unreliable.

     When a “cut-off low” occurs in the Pacific Ocean offshore of California, the low pressure air sinks rapidly and behaves like a large water pump, pushing clouds and moisture into areas that don’t typically expect it. And that is exactly what happened in mid-September where California was in the throes of an early 2007 grape harvest.

     Record September rainfall amounts were set throughout the State, with most of the severe flooding occurring in Southern California. For much of the North and Central Coast, however, the two-day weather event merely stalled what had been a fast start to an early harvest. In Napa and Sonoma counties, the brief rain knocked much of the vineyard dust off the leaves. For Kendall-Jackson winemakers, the respite meant time to clear the stainless steel fermentation tanks and make room for the remaining grapes still on the vine.

     “Following the brief, wet weather, we were back picking grapes in mid-80 degree temperatures,” said Randy Ullom, Kendall-Jackson Winemaster and Chief Operating Officer. “The short delay allowed us to catch our breath. We still expect to have the 2007 harvest wrapped up by the end of October.”

     “Overall grape quality is very good, though tonnage is down on some varieties,” added Ullom.  “The late September warmth definitely moved the grape sugars to their optimum levels more quickly, especially on our Napa and Sonoma mountain-grown Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Our vineyards in Santa Barbara County are now in full harvest mode, with Monterey County just getting up to speed. The Chardonnay and Pinot Noir flavors on the Central Coast are some of the finest we’ve seen in years.”

     Despite the unusual September rainfall, some California grape farmers are seeing early signs that the northern regions may be headed for drought. Following this year’s dry winter and uneventful cool spring (perfect for grape flowering and fruit set), California’s Wine Country is experiencing its first dry spell in years.

     Three consecutive years of above-average wet weather on the North Coast has been replaced by a below-average rainfall year. Record keepers have to go to the 1970s to see a similar trend – a dry winter, followed by a dry spring and a dry summer of mostly mild temperatures.

     “It’s too early to tell whether California is moving into a drought period,” says Ullom.  “Every year, Mother Nature seems to deal us all a new set of cards.”

    

Posted in Wine Buzz
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