"THERE is a time for weighing evidence and a time for acting. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout my work in finance, government and conservation, it is to act before problems become too big to manage.
For too many years, we failed to rein in the excesses building up in the nation’s financial markets. When the credit bubble burst in 2008, the damage was devastating. Millions suffered. Many still do.
We’re making the same mistake today with climate change. We’re staring down a climate bubble that poses enormous risks to both our environment and economy. The warning signs are clear and growing more urgent as the risks go unchecked.
This is a crisis we can’t afford to ignore. I feel as if I’m watching as we fly in slow motion on a collision course toward a giant mountain. We can see the crash coming, and yet we’re sitting on our hands rather than altering course."
For the entire NYT article, click here.
Degree days are the way wine makers and others measure temperatures in the growing season. This is done by measuring the number of hours the temperature is over 50 degrees between April 1 and October 31.
The growing season usually begins in May with bud break - this is the time that growers are concerned with frost. June to September is the real growing season, when about 100 days of sunshine will produce fully developed grapes.
Climate is essential to developing a good wine, as every year is different - the weather changes the vintage - either good or not so good. The word "vintage" simply means from one particular year, it does not mean quality.
A good example of weather affecting vintages is to look at just 3 years in the State of Washington:
- 2010 was the biggest crop in history.
- 2011 - bad frosts in the Horse Heaven Hills district. Many vines were lost.
- 2012 beat the 2010 production by 10%
West Coast Wines & Climate Change
Global warming is real and it is happening now. If you chart the temperatures for the summer months: June, July & August from 1970 to 2015, the results in all 3 States are a clear upward trend.
State Ave Temperature 1970 Ave Temperature 2015
California 73.7 degrees 75.4 degrees
Oregon 64.0 degrees 66.7 degrees
Washington 63.6 degrees 66.9 degrees
- In the next 25 years the degree days in Willamette (Oregon) and Colombia Valley (Washington) are projected to almost double.
- All of our Western wine areas now have a reduction of frost days. Oregon and Washington frost days have gone from 25 to 15.
- Drought is a problem in all areas. California is the most significant.
- More premium sites are being planted in Oregon, where a California climate is expected in years to come.
- Wine regions are determined by the number of degree days.
- Regions are usually designated 1 through 5.
- The measurement of degree days is known as the Winkler Scale.
- Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are usually grown in Region 1.
- Table grapes are grown in Region 5 which has almost double the degree days.
Hypothetical Ideal Growing Conditions:
- Winter: Temperature between 28 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Below 28 gives the potential of vines dying.
- Spring: 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit - helps with bud break in early spring. Increase of temperature towards 70 degrees as tiny seeds begin to form. Rain is required to add moisture to the ground.
- Summer: 70 to 90 degrees. Bunches start to form around late June early July. Constant temperature is important, A variance of no more than 40 degrees is ideal. Too hot can effect the sugar acidity balance. A little rain is ideal, too many cloudy days hamper the growing season.
- Harvest: 60 to 80 degrees during harvest Any rain now will dilute the sugars.
Challenges in growing seasons come from heavy rain, frost, snow, and severe conditions that could lead to replanting.
West Coast Wine Regions
- California: California has a star wine area called Napa Valley which produces 5% of the State's volume and an even higher percent of expensive wines. There are distinct changes in temperature in Napa. I was in Napa in November, 1971 and it was cold and rainy every day. Forty years later I spent several weeks in the Napa Valley (November-December 2011) and I was sitting outside in cafes getting a light tan. I took a leather jacket that I did not use.
- Oregon: In 2001 I was invited to Pinot Camp, a week long course that gives the trade an opportunity to learn the changes in viticulture and vinification. It was late June and we were issued rainproof jackets. It was wet, windy and very cold. The traditional salmon cooked on an open fire was transported inside to be cooked. Eight years later in 2009, Oregon produced one of its best vintages ever. Why? Weather is now warmer. That extra warmth makes the edge of just being under ripe to just being over ripe.
- Washington: An average of two hours a day more sunshine than California and temperatures are more consistent. Chardonnay has been growing in Washington since the late 1970's. This past year, we opened a bottle of Chateau St. Michelle Chardonnay to have with dinner. We were pleasantly surprised at how good it was. Why? Washington is getting warmer. A huge expansion in Washington State since the beginning of the century has increased plantings by 50% featuring mainly european not so well know varietals.
Varietals are chosen to suit soil types and weather. Let's talk about just two of them.
- The name means pine and black. Thought to have been named because the grape clusters resemble pine cones. Cool weather grape. Grows well in the Carneros, Russian River, and the Central Coast in California. Also Willamette Valley in Oregon. The10th most popular grape in the world & 7th most popular of the reds.
- Used in the production of sparkling wines. Hard to grow Produces light colored, thin skinned, medium bodied wines with low tannins. When young it has the aromas of cherries, strawberries and raspberries. When aging it can develop a barnyard smell that some experts call "complex".
- Green skinned and grown from England to New Zealand. The most popular white wine grape in the world and the 5th most popular grape in the world.
- Sometimes the grape is called neutral because it picks up flavors from the soil variances and oak aging.
- It is flexible and made in different styles, from lean and crispy to buttery and oak matured.
- Grown in all western wine States.
Recommendations For West Coast Wines
Chateau St Michelle - Columbia Valley, Washington
Their 14 Hands brand offers excellent value. 2013 is the vintage to get. Their Chardonnay is a blend of Chardonnay, Riesling, and other white varietals. Chateau St. Michelle website has a video of the winemaker explaining the wines, and a detailed fact sheet including wine pairings. Click here for Chateau St. Michelle website.
Gramercy Cellars - Washington
Gramercy is a ten year old winery that should improve even more as the vines mature. A vine meets maturity between 20 and 30 years. Some whites produce for up to 40 years and up to 90 years of age for some reds. Older vines produce lower yields. They add character and complexity to the younger vines.
The following wines from Napa, Sonoma & Carneros are usually less than $15:
- Clos de Bois 2013 - Sonoma
- Cameron Hughes 2013 - various vineyards
- Picket Fence 2014 - Russian River in Sonoma
- Kendall Jackson Vintners Reserve Chardonnay - Sonoma
- Au Contraire 2013 - Russian River in Sonoma
- A - Z : Oregon
- Meomi: Well advertised - available in many stores, selling over a million and half bottles a year. Produced in three California districts. The company that makes it does not own a vineyard. The success of this wine is due to the talents of the Wagner family, a well respected family of three generations. 92 Points Wine Spectator.
- Elouan: Newly developed operation from the same stable that was responsible for Meomi's fame. Three wine regions in Oregon. Heavily advertised with a price point slightly higher than average. A goal of attaining over 90 points for each vintage.
- Vintage: The wine of any given year.
- It takes about a hundred days of sunshine to make a grape ripen.
- Picking takes place when sugar levels reach the required level. Sun, rain, and luck are the three staples. It takes about a hundred days of sunshine to make a grape ripen.
- Are ratings important? Is your palate and mood the same as the critics?
- Scores by the critics are important to many consumers. The three most read wine critics are Stephen Tanzer (Publisher of International Wine Cellar), Robert Parker (The Wine Advocate) and The Wine Spectator which has about eight regular critics.
- The best critic is your own palate
Buying wine can either be an enjoyable pastime or a difficult and intimidating chore depending on how you perceive it. I have been in the wine business for 50 years, but I still sometimes ask the person in the wine section for suggestions. If we like it, we buy it again.
Don't be intimidated. You only need an inquisitive mind, and a specific plan - or my phone number.
Good value is the key! Remember - it is all subjective!