Local wineries luck out with winter weather

East Medford, Ore. — The constant flip-flopping in weather conditions this season has been a concern for local wineries and vineyards. Warm weather can cause grapes to start budding early, which can lead to vines dying if freezing temperatures return.

Southern Oregon fortunately lucked out. The warm weather last month didn’t stick around long enough for the grapes to start budding. Now, growers are just hoping the weather will stay calm enough to have a successful harvest season.

“The crops are doing fine. Basically they’re like roses – so right now, they’re sleeping. They’re dormant,” said Kent Barthman, wine maker at Roxy Ann Winery. Barthman has nearly four decades of experience in wine making.

The harvest season was almost ruined by warmer-than-normal conditions this winter.

“Then the buds will start to come out,” Barthman said.

Leaving the plants vulnerable to freezing when temperatures get cold again.

“If they get burnt from the cold or destroyed, fruitfulness next year will be impacted significantly on the negative side,” Barthman said.

The term, ‘budding’ is what Barthman feared last month when temperatures cruised 70 degrees in the valley. It’s one of the first signs of blossoming.

“That is a bud, and it will get a little more swollen and very soft and get kind of like a fuzzy down on it,” Barthman said.

Fortunately for us, it cooled back down.

“Brethren down south in Napa and Sonoma counties did not – they had bud break and now they’re having to deal with the cold weather and frost,” Barthman said.

Barthman said if we’d had temperatures a little warmer – and a little longer – our area would be in the same situation.

“Either the buds or the new little leaves will get frosted and when they do that – they die,” Barthman said.

The concern now is a long winter. If it stays too cold, for too long – harvest season could be shortened. As long as temperatures stay cool, the grape buds will stay dormant and await blossom season later this month.

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