Back in July, I predicted that the 2010 growing season would be like 2003, heat-wise. Just after posting that story, the nearly perfect match between the seasons fell apart, with 2010 chilling down more than 12% below 2003 by this last day of August.
The phenomenon of cooling in the South Pacific that we have come to call "La Niña" is to blame for our weird weather, bringing good and not-so-good news for our 2010 harvest.
Lodi winegrape growers are already saying they are anywhere from a week to two weeks behind in ripening. This delay is often thought of as a good thing, in that more hang time often results in wines of greater complexity and ability to age.
Contrary to the El Niño deluge we suffered on October 13 of 2009, when half-mile-long rows of vines were toppled like dominoes, we are more likely to have our normal couple of inconsequential pavement-wetting September and October showers.
Our famous Lodi Zinfandel, customarily picked in September, will bleed over into October, but is likely to be excellent this year, as will most of our whites.
I'm concerned about our late-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Carignane and Mourvèdre. I've seen Mourvèdre, in particular, during cool years simply drop its leaves and let hanging bunches of raisins form - not a recipe for great wine.
But our vanguard of passionate Lodi growers, having learned valuable lessons during the challenging 1998 vintage, are already on top of helping vines carry out ripening by dropping as much as 20% or more of their crop in the name of quality.