Fog

Uncorked: Warm spring puts season back on track

Published: Saturday, June 8, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Extremely high temperatures rarely occur in Santa Barbara.

The proximity of the Pacific Ocean influences the climate and normally prohibits drastic heat spikes. There’s usually a fog layer in the morning and evening and often a crisp breeze blowing through the valleys between the mountains.

It was a surprise when the news feed on Facebook had a picture of an unconditioned tasting room hanging a “closed” sign earlier this spring due to triple-digit temperatures. With more than 30 years of experience in the Santa Barbara County wine industry, Rick Longoria has seen it all, and 2013 looks to be right on track as a growing season.

Winemaker spotlight 

Winter nights were cold this year in Santa Barbara.

The bucolic pastoral landscape home to many of the finest domestic vineyards producing Burgundian varietals had nighttime temperatures in the low 30s and even upper 20s. But, because his vines were dormant, Longoria wasn’t phased by the cold snap.

Factor in only 60 percent of average rainfall and a drier-than-normal soil and Longoria had to wait longer than normal for bud break this spring.

“The cold was OK because the vines were dormant,” said Longoria, who has tasting rooms in Los Olivos and the Lompoc Wine Ghetto. “We also had dry spoil conditions, which could have caused the delay in bud break. Bud break was delayed by two to three weeks.”

As is normally the case with Mother Nature, a warmer than usual spring might just put the growing season back on track. Despite less-than-ideal growing seasons in 2011 and 2012 which resulted in smaller yields, Longoria still produced phenomenal wines.

The barrel samples I had last spring at Longoria’s Lompoc winery should be coming online soon and showed amazingly at the time. A warm spring might help increase yields and give the veteran winemaker more fruit than the past few years in which he can show his deft touch at crafting some of the finest wines in Santa Barbara.

“The spring has been a little warmer than normal, so the vines seem to have caught up a little from their late start,” Longoria said. “I’ve been doing counting of flower clusters at my vineyard and it seems we are about normal to slightly below normal. But it is better than last year and the year before, for our vineyard anyway. It’s been windy lately, but this is pretty typical of May, and it should die down in a few weeks. We’re looking good so far.”

Where to go

Ottawa 2 Rivers Wine Fest, noon to 10 p.m. today and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday

Get summer fest season started with wine, jazz and lobster. More than 20 Illinois wineries will be pouring in the third installment of downtown Ottawa’s wine festival.

Visit www.ottawa2riverstwinefest.com for more information.

• James Nokes writes a bi-weekly wine column for the Daily Chronicle. He’s been tasting, touring and collecting in the wine world for several years. Contact him at news@daily-chronicle.com. 

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