Local Winemakers: How Does Extreme Weather Affect Wine

by | May 18, 2018 | Eve's Wine 101

With the fires and extreme heat we’ve experienced here and read about in wine country, many people worry about how our next vintages of wine will do. They wonder, in particular, how extreme weather conditions affect our wine. For answers I reached out to local winemakers and winery owners.

Scott Page-Pagter of Pagter Brothers Winery

“In terms of how the fires affect Pagter Bothers, there was a fire about a mile away from our flagship White Hawk Vineyard, in Los Alamos. They stopped it pretty quickly, and like most of the vineyards, it should not affect the grapes. All vineyards were dormant at that time of the year (in this hemisphere) and the Santa Barbara fires were not close enough to leave too much ash or have the smoke affect the vines, so there should be negligible affect on those areas.
Paso was not in fire hell, like so many other wine areas. We’ll see what a difference it makes in Napa and Sonoma after harvest. I have a good friend who owns the Miner Family Winery in Napa. My heart was broken when he sent me an email that his vineyards were on fire. From what I read, not a lot of vineyards were actually burnt, it seems they are pretty good fire breaks since they didn’t have a lot of fuel to burn (at the time of year) and are well watered.”
Pagter Brothers Winery: pagterbros.com

Mark Blatty of Byron Blatty Wine

“Even though LA County has seen plenty of brushfires in recent times, our vineyards have been far enough away that we haven’t had any issues with flames or smoke taint.
We have, however, had to contend with the main culprit behind the local fires, and that is drought. We don’t get much rain in LA in general, and the past few years have been particularly tough, 2017 being the exception. The drought conditions, combined with the heat puts real stress on us at harvest time.
We like our wines full flavored and fruit forward so we want our grapes at maximum ripeness, which is easily achieved given all the warm weather and sunshine we get, but we have to pay very close attention to the fruit’s acid and pick at just the right moment before the heat makes those acids crash.”
Byron Blatty Wine: byronblatty.com

Doug Minnick of Hoi Polloi Winery

“The most unusual thing weather-wise was the tremendous heat spike in September last year. Temps were well over 100 degrees for a couple of weeks and the sugars (brix) rapidly began to soar.
Winemakers were faced with the dilemma of picking the fruit much earlier (date-wise) than usual – with sugars high but with incomplete phenolic ripeness – or to wait and hope the weather cooled off. Well, it DID cool off, but much cooler than usual, and it never really warmed back up. The brix began to slide back down, and in many cases stayed down. Acids fell even though the brix stayed low.
There were no easy decisions about when to pick. Farming is hard. As a winemaker friend said, this is the kind of year where you really have to be a winemaker.”
Hoi Polloi Winery: hoipolloiwinery.com

Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), a “certification in first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), Level 1 Sake Award from WSET, was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video, authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru. You can email [email protected] to ask a question about wine or spirits. You can also seek her marketing advice via [email protected]




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