Friday, May 02, 2008

Don't Knock the Weather

Apparently it was presumptuous of Vino Girl to think that it would be sunny and warm in Sonoma in late April. Okay, it was sunny part of the time and rainy a good deal of the time. Warm it most definitely was not.

In fact, there was a very rare (since the 70s) frost in Sonoma just before Winemonkey and I arrived in town. The aberrant weather damaged many vines and potentially wiped out a significant amount of the crop for some producers. No one knows yet how it will play out at harvest time but April and May are troublesome months to experience frost because the vines are still so delicate.

The weather was in the 40s and 50s while we were in Sonoma (April 21st – 24th) and we prepared to taste wines outside by sporting layer upon layer of any reasonably warm clothing we could find. As of this week the temperature is in the 70s and 80s and the sun has taken back its rightful place in the wine country sky. We can only hope that vine growth remains vigorous into May and June.

As Winemonkey and I traveled south to the Central Coast on April 24th and 25th – first stop Paso Robles – the weather turned much warmer without a cloud in the sky. The nights were nice and cool, giving the vines their necessary rest, and it seemed the perfect April temperature for the shoots to grow.

We continued south on April 26th and 27th and as we drove down the coast the temperature pushed up and up. By the time we arrived in Santa Maria in Santa Barbara county the mercury had reached 95 degrees! Just looking around it was like the desert down there. We could hardly believe anyone could make decent wine in this environment but, having tasted some great wines from the region, we soldiered on. The most interesting thing was watching the car's outside temperature gauge go from 65 to 90 degrees and back again as we zigzagged closer and then further away from the Pacific coast.

Although most wine people are very familiar with how bodies of water and altitude and other geographic factors influence climate, it was fascinating to see the temperature change so drastically from day to day, region to region, and microclimate to microclimate.

We went from hooded sweatshirts, turtleneck sweaters, and jeans to suntan lotion, short sleeves, and shorts in just one week without ever really having the perfect accoutrement to match the weather. Just think how the grapes must feel!

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