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.