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Global Warming a Big Issue for Pinot Noir

2006 was one of the warmest years on record for the United States. According to the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., the average annual temperature in the lower 48 states was 2.2 degrees higher than the mean temperature for the 20th century and slightly warmer than 1998, which previously held the temperature record. January, 2006, was the warmest on record.

The Sunday Oregonian (December 31, 2006) ran the sixth report in a series on global warming and its effect on northwest weather patterns. Researchers say to expect “hotter, drier heat waves, heavier rains and quicker snowmelt in the Northwest.” Examination of temperature records from 1960 to 1996 by the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University showed increases in extremely hot days across the Northwest. It is predicted that by the end of the century, Pinot Noir will grow better along Washington’s Puget Sound than it does in the Willamette Valley.

According to winemaker Harry-Peterson-Nedry, who has been outspoken on this subject, “We have moved to the middle of the window,” meaning the cool climate needed to successfully grow Pinot Noir in Oregon has become noticeably warmer in the thirty or so years since Oregon Pinot Noir has been grown successfully. Researchers have found that the only place in Oregon that will remain cool enough for Pinot Noir by the end of this century will be a narrow strip along the coast and land to the north around Puget sound (refer to map below)

The resulting outcome may be that Oregon will become more hospitable to grape varietals grown in warmer regions of California such as Syrah. In fact, Oregon may be eventually better suited than California for many grape varieties grown there now.

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