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What Happened To Winter?

While there was snow on the ground in Dallas, Northern Californians were enjoying 80 degree weather this Super Bowl. Everyone has been relishing summer temperatures in the middle of winter and basking in the unexpected sun. As much as I like to be an optimist, this Cellar Rat is a little concerned about what this reprieve from cold weather might mean. The extended forecasts say our little block of summer is due to end next week. I for one am eager for more rain and I’d imagine the vines are too. My concern isn’t that they won’t get enough water – grapevines don’t need very much H2O and, in fact, less water produces better winegrapes. What I’m worried about is that the precipitation is simply being deferred and that we’ll have a particularly wet spring.

In this episode of Cellar Rat TV, I talked last spring about the potential of heavy rains during spring damaging the flowering buds and ruining the fruitset. If that happens then many bunches of grapes will only have some of their berries developed and come harvest, the pollenated “shot berries” will be a major problem to contend with. Too many of them in the fermenting must can cause astringent flavors or undesirable green notes.

The other challenge we face every spring is the threat of frost damage. Frost doesn’t damage the lignified (or wooded) parts of the vine but it can destroy or irreparably damage the cells of green growth. Therefore, I’d rather the vines face the cold weather now before they begin to bud than later in the season.

I’m no meteorologist but I would put my money on winter coming back with a vengeance. My apologies to those Californians who would rather be tanning than splashing in puddles, but I hope that we see some spring showers in the near future.

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