La Niña here in Oregon
A beautiful day of the clonal block from Woodhall Vineyard courtesy of Vineyard Manager Alex Moeller (via Facebook)
In the past, I have always enjoyed La Niña when it occurred during the winter. La Niña usually means an amazing ski season in the Pacific Northwest with deep snow packs and long seasons. For 2011, this meant record snowfall at the ski resorts (a good thing, in my opinion) and buckets of rain in the valley. However, if you are trying to grow plants, this is less than ideal.
La Niña provided the Willamette Valley with large amounts of clouds and rain and generally cool weather until, well, about a week ago. This cool weather delayed bud break quite a bit and is a sign that we will may be in for a later harvest again this year. Will it be an October harvest again? Probably… but if we have a nice summer (read: hot), we can make up some time. 2009 certainly showed us that it is possible to have a reasonably average harvest date despite a late bud break; 09 was one of the hotter vintages in the last few years and the valley harvested in the mid-end of September, but bud break wasn’t until around April 20th.
La Niña basically means a cold winter in Oregon. La Niña occurs when the surface temperature of the ocean is colder than normal in the South Pacific, approximately near the equator and the date line. Ultimately, that results in colder and wetter weather in the Oregon. The affects of La Niña are most noticeable in the winter months, but if the first half of 2011 was any indication, it clearly has its effects in spring too.
Oddly enough, the reason that La Niña is relevant right now is because it has gone away. The prediction at the beginning of the year was that the weather patterns would revert back to normal some time in May, or they would stay cool/wet for most of the year. If La Niña was still around, there would be little more to say than “it’s going to be an interesting harvest.” Though La Niña is theoretically gone, it does not necessarily mean that harvest won’t be “interesting”, but it is certainly a step in the right direction.