This Saturday (October 3) here in Walla Walla we are seeing a slightly hazy sky, but the Blue Mountains are clearly visible. Weather-wise, the nights and mornings are cool and the afternoons warm, nearly ideal conditions for a successful grape harvest. The ten day weather forecast is for continued highs in the 70's and low 80's, with a cooling trend from October 10 on. Much of the harvest should be completed by then with Cabernet Sauvignon needing more hang time.
The biggest worry for wineries has been the effects of the wildfires to the south in California and Oregon. On September 11, smoke began coming in, building up the following week to thick, extremely unhealthy smoke. The extent of smoke damage to the grapes was at yet unknown. Ashley Trout (Vital and Brook & Bull) wrote, "Thinking back to that smokey seek earlier in September, a sight of which had never been seen before in Washington, no one could advise me on what to do. Each fire and smoke incident is unique and many grapes and sites react differently." "We're through it now. Thankfully," she added. She made wine in buckets to see how the smoke affected the wine. And then, "Lab results are rolling in from those bucket micro-ferments and now I see we are through the woods. All is not lost and, in fact, this may turn out to be the most memorable harvests of them all. Onward we go."
Another big worry, though, for wineries is how Covid-19 is going to affect their businesses this fall. Presently, most wine tasting has been outdoors, but what happens when weather gets cooler and people spend more time indoors? Tasting rooms are limited to 50% capacity indoors and, already, fewer people are visiting wineries. This year, Fall Release Weekend in Walla Walla will be November 6-8 but it will be like none other before. Some wineries have already canceled their Fall Release events and most others have been scaled back. The usual winemaker dinners will not happen this year. Who knows what will happen? We shall see.