In Napa Valley, winemakers fight climate change on all fronts

Nov 22, 2019 at 10:00am

The Business Times, by Eric Asimov

Every wine region has had to deal with some manifestation of climate change, but few have had to deal with as many devastating consequences as Napa Valley.

On Labor Day 2017, as the weeks-long harvest was getting underway, the temperature reached 43 deg C here in the heart of cabernet sauvignon country. But extreme summer heat has not been the only issue.

An abnormally warm January and February in 2015 set the growing season in motion early. But a cold snap in May caused many growers to lose 40 to 50 per cent of their crop.

Wildfires, sparked by high winds and extremely dry conditions, are threatening Northern California wine country. In October 2017, fires in Napa and Sonoma blackened fields and threatened the quality of unharvested grapes. The 2017 fires followed five years of extreme drought in California.

This year, in an effort to prevent its equipment from igniting fires, Pacific Gas and Electric has intentionally shut down electrical power, blacking out wide sections of wine country, sometimes for days at a time. Many wineries can't afford to be without power at the height of fall wine production and were forced to invest in diesel generators and other portable equipment.

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