Water Stress in Oregon!?

From John, November 17th, 2016

While the 2016 growing season had its share of late summer hot weather, it was not as hot a growing season as in the previous year.  However, water stress was another issue.  By late April not only were we experiencing unseasonably warm weather but the ubiquitous Oregon rain mostly came to a halt as well.  The rain that we did receive after that was either of short duration or was soaked up by the cover crop which had been stimulated to grow by the warm temperatures.  And the ground simply dried up as the season progressed without significant rain.
In the case of our vineyards at Cameron, we have over the last several vintages engaged in a practice of no-till, instead simply mowing the covercrops.  The idea is to keep carbon fixed in the soil right where it is since tilling sets in motion microbial degradation of carbon to CO2.  Most vintages this will work fine but in an extremely dry and warm vintage, the vines end up water-stressed.  Partly as a result of this, the berries did not size up as much as we thought they would, so crop levels were a bit low.
The saving grace for the entire 2016 vintage came in early September when we received a significant rain event just prior to harvest.  Since rain water is absorbed to some extent directly into the fruit, the spongy, slightly dehydrated berries rehydrated to a perfect turgid state and we were in business.  The end result of all of this is a cellar of very concentrated wines (due mostly to the small crop) which are wonderfully balanced (due to the beneficent rain).  So get ready for a brilliant 2016 vintage of small production down the road!

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