Winter 2023

In the Vineyard

Winter is here.  We’ve had lots of rain, and even a bit of snow, with much cooler temperatures than usual.  A common question I get asked is “what will this ______  do to the vines?”  In the blank you can put pretty much any weather-related phenomenon:  rain, frost, heat, cold, drought, flood, or even smoke.  Sometimes this can be a hard question to answer, but in the winter it’s fairly easy.

When the vines are dormant, which they are in the winter, they’re pretty much impervious to what the weather is up to.  Vineyards can fill up with water or pile up with snow, and the vines will not be much bothered by it.  Unless it gets so cold for so long that the soil actually freezes, which is unlikely in our climate, the vines will be fine with whatever the winter throws at them. 

close-up picture of mustard in vineyard
Bartholomew Estate vineyards in winter

What matters more is when it rains, not how much.  The vines will need, and use, quite a bit of water in the spring, when they bud out and begin to grow.  If at least some of our winter rains come late, as they are doing this year, there will still be moisture still in the ground for the vines to use in the early months of the growing season.  If not, we will have to begin drip irrigation that much sooner.

On the other hand, this late-season cold snap will probably delay budbreak a little, which may lead to, all other things being equal (which they never are), a somewhat later harvest down the line.  This is neither a good nor bad a thing in itself, but, depending on what the weather is like the remainder of the year, just another step in the continually changing, ever-fascinating dance that is winemaking.