The planet continued its warming trend, with 2022 ranking as the sixth-warmest year on record since 1880, according to a scientists’ analyses from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). It was also the 46th consecutive year with temperatures above average, oceanic surface heat was at an all-time high and 2022 was the Arctic’s warmest year ever, warming four times as fast as the rest of the planet, noted Greg Jones, world-renowned atmospheric scientist and wine climatologist. The extreme Arctic warming will likely continue influencing great mid-latitude climate variability, says Jones.
Over 7 million US acres were burned by wildfire with almost 70,000 wildfires reported as of Dec. 23, 2022, according to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) which thankfully spared most Oregon winegrowers for the first time in at least a few years. Oregon had 889 forest fires in 2022, down from 1,134 in 2021 according to the Oregon Department of Forestry. This figure represented 13% less than the average of 1,025 fires per year in Oregon.
Data for 2022 for the western US has temperatures for the meteorological summer clocking in at 2.5% higher than the average of 73.9 degrees F, measured from June 1 through Aug. 31, 2022. That made 2022 the third-hottest U.S. summer on record in the past 128 years, according to NOAA.
Oregon joined California, Idaho, Nevada, and Washington for having the warmest on record for August nighttime temperature, said NOAA scientists.
Precipitation is an important discussion at the climate table, and while precipitation in the continental US was 3.4% above average, there were large disparities in precipitation amounts across the country. The Southern US, New England, four corners and inland Pacific NW areas experienced well above the average rate of precipitation in 2022, while other parts of the Western US, plains states and the Southeast were well below average rates of precipitation, according to this NOAA map.
According to Jones, in his climate report here, “precipitation amounts for the 2022 calendar year show that the western US was quite dry with most regions seeing between 30-90% of normal (image 1,2 below), with much of California and the Great Basin seeing the driest conditions. The inland Pacific Northwest saw a near-average to wetter-than-average year, while Oregon was mostly below average. The desert southwest had a significant monsoon season putting many areas above average for the first time in a while. While current and projected drought concerns in the west continue for many areas, the first half of winter of 2022 into 2023 has provided some relief.”
Image 1, 2 – Western US January-December 2022 temperature departure from normal (left) and percent of normal precipitation (right; images from WestWide Drought Tracker, Western Region Climate Center; University of Idaho) and adapted from Greg Jones’ Climate Report.
2022 Vintage Observations
One would be remiss if they didn’t mention the advective frost we had in the beginning of April 2022, where overnight temperatures in Oregon dipped to 27-28 degrees in growing regions, enough to affect buds that had begun emerging from winter dormancy. Cold air mass events like this in Oregon are extremely rare in April, said Jones. Unfortunately, the forecast for 2023 is tilting the odds to another cold spring, predicts Jones.
As Jones pointed out, it is not uncommon to have a warm and dry March, early bud break, an early April frost followed by a cold and wet late April. But to have all four of these weather phenomena happen in one season is a one in every 30–50-year event.
In 2022, a very cool and wet April continued into May and then into early June and when combined with the frost, set vine growth back by 2-4 weeks. The spring finally sprung just in time for flowering producing a very good fruit set. Afterwards, the heat turned on for the rest of the summer and with the soils full of water from the wetter spring, the vines produced a healthy canopy to carry them through the season. As news began coming in that harvest was almost over in California, Oregon and Pacific NW growers were still sampling for sugars and hoping for a warm end of the season to allow the fruit to ripen. And we got it, the month ended up nearly 3°F warmer than average and after a pesky cut-off low pressure system brought a little rain around September 20-21, it dried out until October 20-21 when many winemakers had harvested their fruit. Oregon’s October was warmer than usual, coming in at 4-6 degrees warmer than average, according to Jones.
Comments from growers on the 2022 vintage centered around appreciation for the dryness and warmth Oregon experienced in harvest season through October 21, 2022. They also celebrated a return to normal, or a classic Oregon vintage, and as Analemma Wines in the Columbia Gorge noted, “Substantial precipitation in May and June created ideal dry farming conditions and led to rapid shoot growth when the heat arrived in July.”
Other comments from growers about the 2022 vintage included animal pressure concerns, frost damage to large percentages of primary buds, and high Powdery Mildew pressure due to the larger canopy size.
Seasoned winemakers like Ken Wright didn’t fail to see miraculous recovery this season. “We are close to our grape-growing brethren all over the world and none can recall such an incredible recovery as we saw this year in the northern Willamette Valley,” he said. “It defied all prior recorded experience. When you are working hand in hand with Mother Nature, the lessons just keep coming.”
State of the Industry
With latest figures showing 1,058 bonded wineries in 2021, Oregon saw major growth in the Columbia Gorge AVA which grew by 14% more wineries for a total of 73, and the North Willamette Valley with 7% more wineries for a total of 695 versus 2020 numbers. The Willamette Valley is comprised of 781 total wineries, (86 in South Willamette Valley) making up 74% of the state’s winery population. Similarly, 1,411 vineyards are now growing grapes in the state, an increase of 3% from 2020. With all regions statewide holding steady in acreage, the North Willamette Valley expanded the most, with 4.2% more vineyards in 2021 over 2020.
Southern Oregon—The Rogue Valley
Andy Myer, Goldback Wines, Rogue Valley AVA
The season was late from start to finish here with a cold and wet spring and a long, warm fall. A few of our vineyards were impacted heavily by frost, but only in early budbreak varieties like Pinot noir and Chardonnay. The season got a late start in general. We saw a very cool April and May, with rain continuing well into early June. There was some variability during flowering with these rain events.
The fruit started coming in on September 20, about ten days later than it’s been in the past few years. With the dry conditions, there has been quite a bit of animal pressure with animals coming down from the hills to find food. The animal pressure, especially from bears, was a bit unusual.
Although yields were down, quality is exceptional.
There was some concern with the late start to harvest that a cooler, wet fall would pose some challenges, but thankfully we had a fantastic month of October.
Southern Oregon—The Umpqua Valley
Greg Jones, Abacela, Umpqua Valley AVA
After a warm and dry winter came an early bud break, followed by a frost on April 15th. The earliest varieties and blocks saw some damage to primary buds, but it was what happened afterwards that set the stage for the growing season at Abacela; With the warm days and cool nights, Abacela and the entire Pacific Northwest enjoyed the conditions needed to turn the vintage. The perfect weather continued through October 21st. The fruit coming in was lovely, with slightly lower sugar levels than average, but wonderful flavors and balance.
Early varieties started coming in on September 26, a week to ten days behind. While there were some uneasy moments early on in the vintage, we at Abacela are very happy with how things are ending up and are looking forward to some wonderful wines from 2022.
The Columbia Gorge
Steven Thompson and Kris Fade, Analemma Wines, Columbia Gorge AVA
According to Steven at in Mosier, Oregon, 2022 was another great year for wine growing in The Columbia Gorge AVA. “The season started much later than normal with a very cool, wet spring. Substantial precipitation in May and June created ideal dry farming conditions and led to rapid shoot growth when the heat arrived in July.
Flowering was delayed by as much as 3 weeks occurring in early July. The later summer’s temperatures were moderated by the pacific maritime influence allowing sugars to develop slowly as compared to recent vintages. Harvest was once again un-inhibited by weather events as temps stayed warm throughout October. This vintage granted spectacular quantity and quality. Ample ground moisture led to increased yields while the dry fall facilitated the full development of flavors.”
Jessica Mozeico, Et Fille Wines, Willamette Valley
Jessica Mozeico’s wine growing season got off to a slow start at Et Fille’s test vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains AVA as well as the six she sources grapes from in Dundee Hills, Yamhill-Carlton and Eola-Amity Hills AVAs, due to a cool and wet spring. As vines began emerging from dormancy in mid-April, and buds started to appear, winegrowers like Jessica experienced a frost that damaged buds with temperatures dipping below 28 degrees which threatened to harm the 2022 vintage.
She recounted the frost experience to Capital Press: “At that time, I thought it would in particular affect the Viognier, Chardonnay and earlier ripening Pinot noir sites,” Mozeico said. “My approach was to wait and see.” Summer brought a turn for the better, she said, with warm and dry weather extending into October allowing the fruit to ripen and develop sugars after falling behind early.
She wrapped up harvest on October 21st with yields similar to a normal Oregon year of winegrowing, yet with larger clusters. “What I learned this harvest is that a vine has a maximum potential it wants to achieve,” she said. “If there are fewer buds at play, the clusters themselves (grow) extremely large.”
Ray Nuclo, King Estate Winery, Willamette Valley
July and August were warm and dry, resulting in ideal growing conditions for King Estate in Lorane, Oregon. Cool, wet weather meant soil moisture was much higher than normal going into this period, resulting in larger than average clusters. It did, however, create challenges due to the large amount of canopy growth. Powdery mildew pressure was very high due to the larger canopy size. Growers had to be diligent with their canopy management and integrated disease control practices.
When crop estimates in August gave the first indication of the rebound from April’s frost, the team at King Estate saw that yields at affected vineyards were estimated to be better than expected. Véraison, or color change, began in mid- to late August, continuing the pattern of later-than-average development and portending a late harvest. To pull off a successful harvest in the Willamette Valley, October was going to have to be cooperative.
When Oregon experienced the warmest October on record, King Estate reported that ripening accelerated quickly and the new challenge was trying to bring in all that ripe fruit in a compressed window. Because of the hard frost, many wineries, including King Estate, had anticipated lower yields and therefore had sourced additional fruit. With the higher-than-estimated yields, the new challenge was finding space for all the grapes. Cooler fall-like conditions arrived in the last week of October. While the bulk of the harvest was in, the last remaining blocks and vineyards were harvested during breaks in weather over the course of the last days of October.
Bryan Laing, Hazelfern Cellars, Chehalem Mountains AVA, Willamette Valley
Hazelfern’s harvest started about 3 weeks later than normal on September 29 when they began to pick, receive fruit and process it. He stated:
While the frost in April did initially impact us, we are happy to report that the fruit at Hazelfern is beautiful this year. Despite frost damage to about 75% of our primary buds, the vines made up for it with a strong secondary fruit set and large cluster weights. Pinot Noir yielded close to our seasonal average. The sunny days and dry weather in the first half of October made for perfect harvest conditions and extended hang time for the fruit. The fruit quality we are seeing at Hazelfern is epic. The fruit quality we saw at Hazelfern is beautiful with ripe flavors and ideal acidity.
Challenges in the vineyard this year that were set-up by a very wet and cold spring. Mildew pressure was very high throughout the summer, and they had to be diligent with vineyard sprays and canopy management this year, pulling leaves and hedging several times throughout the summer in order to encourage strong airflow through the vines. We lucked out with warm and dry fall weather conditions that helped us keep disease in check.
Written by Sarah Murdoch for the Oregon Wine Board. firstname.lastname@example.org
This report was heavily reliant upon the info gathered and compiled by Gregory V. Jones, Ph.D. Climatologist. Dr. Jones has verified this report.