It has been a mild, warm, and dry winter and spring in Oregon's Willamette Valley. A question we are frequently asked is, "What does that mean for the grapes?" Here are five possible implications for Harvest 2015 in the Willamette Valley:
1) Growth Acceleration: Heat provides grapes what they need to develop. We measure this in Growing Degree Days. According to Oregon expert Gregory Jones of Southern Oregon University, "To date in 2015, growing degree-days are higher than normal over all of California, Oregon, and Washington with April accumulations running between the last two warm years (2013 and 2014)." If this were sustained, we would expect an early harvest, though May is too early to make that call.
2) Dry: Obviously, precipitation has been lower than normal all winter and spring on the west coast. In areas like the Willamette Valley where irrigation is uncommon, it means that we worry a bit, but not too much since our generally mild climate and fertile soils usually keep things healthy even with a bit less water than normal.
3) Predictions for Summer: We expect more of the same warmer and drier weather than normal. National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s seasonal outlook (May-Jun-Jul) continues the strong likelihood for a warm late spring and early summer along the west coast. Additionally, the "blob" reported in the media, which refers to a condition of warm sea surface temperatures in the North Pacific, is creating a persistent ridge over the west coast with dry conditions expected to continue.
4) Possible El Nino: There are some indications that there could be a mild event in the late fall or winter that could bring rainfall into California and possibly Oregon. Bottom line: we need to be prepared for possible rain events in the fall.
5) Ship Wine Now: We plan to ship most wines as soon as possible as a warm west coast summer could mean that we have a very narrow window for shipping.