The Big Freeze

From John, August 12th, 2022

For many of the last several springs I have watched in horror as some of my favorite villages and producers in Burgundy have endured late frosts that destroyed part of their precious crop. In the 38 Oregon vintages that I have been a part of, we have only experienced mild freezes in the spring which would take out some bits of crop but usually nothing very significant. But with Climate Change it is a whole new world of farming.

After fires in 2020 and a bizarre heat dome in 2021, April 2022 donned as a typical classic Oregon spring with lots of wet weather and moderate temperatures pushing the buds on the vines to expand and open.  And then out of nowhere came a blast of frigid Arctic air in mid-April that settled on us for several days plunging the temperature into the mid-20’s. When it was done, the vines in lower elevation sites (such as Clos Electrique) looked like they had been torched. Nearly all of the primary buds (where the primordial flowers reside) had been killed.  As secondary buds started to push a couple of weeks later, very few primordial flowers were evident. The Nebbiolo was almost completely wiped out and most of the Chardonnay, except for 2 clones that generally break bud later and were therefore partly spared. Most of the Pinot noir was hit as well, with the exception of some individual clones (a clone from Alsace and a few individual clones in the Martin Ray massale). Overall, it appears that Clos Electrique lost at least 70% of its crop.

Up at Abbey Ridge where part of the vineyard had not broken bud yet, things look better. Though there as well, the Chardonnay was mostly wiped out as were blocks of Pinot noir situated at lower elevations. The irony at Abbey Ridge is that the vines that were unaffected seem to be carrying a massive crop, part of which we will need to drop on the ground in order to facilitate ripening!

Because of the cold Spring and early Summer weather and the fact that bud break was delayed by the freeze, we did not experience bloom until early July. So it now all rests on October and the weather that we get during what will be a late harvest.

At times like these it is important to remain an optimist: I count some of our best vintages amongst those that occurred totally in October (1993, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2010 & 2011).


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