Friday, August 19, 2011

Looking for Véraison

For those of you not in the wine industry, Véraison is not a sexy French chick; it is when the grapes start to ripen. The black grapes take on color and the white grapes turn translucent. This usually happens the second week of August in the Rattlesnake Hills AVA. So far, we have a little véraison in Merlot, Gewürztraminer, and Black Manukas (an early seedless table grape). I have even checked out the big boys’ vineyards where they are cropped back to two tons per acre to make that big, high alcohol, Parker-style wine and they don’t have véraison either. Late harvest Cabernet, anyone?

As you probably already know, it has been a very cold summer in the Pacific Northwest. How cold was it you ask? We count our growing season by Growing Degree Days or GDD. Let’s look at this summer. We have accumulated 1591 GDD between April 1 and August 19. Most people aren’t old timers in the Washington wine industry like me, but I remember the summer of 1993 – known as the summer that never came. That summer by August 19 we had accumulated 1695 GDD. We are about 100 GDD behind the coldest summer in my 31 year career in the Washington wine industry. By the way, there were no spectacular wines from 1993. The newcomers considered 2010 a cool year and we had accumulated 1880 GDD by now. In a normal year we should have about 2000 GDD by August 19. I would guess we are about 3 weeks behind. It looks like Al Gore packed up his global warming and took it back to Tennessee. Climate change, anyone?

Prosser Flats, unlike the Rattlesnake Hills, only has 1356 GDD on August 19. Red Mountain, on the other hand, has 1716 – better, but still no cigar.

We need at least 2300 GDD to harvest Bordeaux varieties, but we would prefer at least 2600 GDD for optimum quality. We are presently getting around 20 GDD per day.The next five days are forecast to be above average and that is good news. A long warm fall can save our butts.

One the bright side, unlike some AVAs in the state, we do have grapes!

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