Our Grapes And Climate ChangeLast December Pinotblogger (Josh Hermsmeyer) put up a post titled: "Climate Change and Wine Growing: One Farmer’s Opinion" that caught my interest enough to comment on it. I have been thinking about the exchange since then.
So here is another farmer's opinion, and why I ultimately don't lose much sleep over what any governmental agencies adopt as policy toward climate change.
It seems to me that one would have to be willfully ingorant not to see that the climate is changing, and getting hotter. Regardless of short term and local low temperatures, in the broader scheme glaciers and the ice caps are melting at a rate unprecedented in geologic history. And weather events are becoming more extreme.
Whether these changes have an anthropogenic component may or may not be proven, but the coincidence is striking. Whether or not we as a society or as a species can do anything to alter the rate of climate change, much less reverse its trajectory, remains to be seen. I'm not optimistic. I don't believe the will is there.
So what's one farmer to do? In a word, hedge. I have done what I can to hedge aganst the risks of climate change. First, I chose a very cool site for our vineyard. Not the coolest, but cool enough that we can produce very high quality Pinot Noir at low yields. Cool enough that every year we are usually the last vineyard to harvest Pinot in the Sonoma Valley appellation. Cool enough that the final ripening of our Rhône grapes is dictated by the shortening day length rather than heat summation.
Second, we are fortunate that our vineyard is sited at the confluence of two marine mesoclimates, poised between the Sonoma Valley adjacent to San Pablo Bay, and the Santa Rosa Plain opposite the Russian River gap. Every day as the air heats up and rises over Kenwood, air is pulled up-valley from the Bay (cooling Carneros) and off the cold waters of the Pacific through the gap, over a temperature inversion in the Plain and directly to our site. The hotter it gets in Kenwood, the windier and cooler it gets at our vineyard.
Third, we have a great water source -- a highly-productive well, drilled so deep that it is drawing from an aquifer that is likely to recharge for centuries. If the world heats up and our evapotranspiration requirement goes up, we should still be able to farm.
Finally, we have are successfully farming both early- and late-ripening varieties for high quality. If it gets warmer we bud over the Pinot Noir to Mourvedre and Grenache. If all the science is actually wrong, and it gets colder we will bud all the Rhône varieties to Pinot Noir. Either way, we win.
As a citizen I believe there may be good reasons to make burning carbon more expensive well before it becomes more expensive due to scarcity. As a parent I would like my children to live in a world more benign than the one I grew up in; a world of rising sea level and harsher weather does not seem more benign, so if there is even a chance that this change could be delayed or averted, the conservative in me wants to grab that chance. But as a farmer on our vineyard? I think I and at least several generations after me are covered.