The 2022 vintage will be remembered by low yields because of another extremely light rainfall winter as well as an extreme heat event in September and the earliest start to harvest across the entire AVA.
Budbreak was in the first week of March for many and a mild frost season helped keep this early budbreak follow through into flowering without too much pressure. Late Spring brought abnormally windy and cool weather producing challenging conditions for fruit set. The introduction to summer was welcomed with great wine grape growing weather and only a few days hitting the 100-degree mark. With the great start, canopies were full, healthy, and ready for the rest of the vintage’s tough temps. July brought our typical warm weather with cool nights.
The Labor Day heat was the biggest challenge. There were two heat waves which affected this earlier than normal harvest season. The first heatwave, August 12 to 19 ranged from 100 – 108 degrees. There was a small reprieve for 11 days until the big heatwave, which was from August 31 to September 9, which had a low of 105 and max of 115 degrees. To make growing conditions even more challenging, a rain event occurred just a week after the last heat wave.
Another challenge brought on by the heat wave was how nimble some wineries could be with picking decisions. Estate programs with in-house crews could make picking decisions that didn’t rely on crew availability nor competition from other clients. This would ultimately lend itself to the quality of fruit brought in when ready.
Many growers report that the cool spring lent to smaller clusters, thereby also influencing the reduced yield. However, the smaller clusters create deeper color and extraction, which lends itself to better quality. Luckily the 2022 vintage began with normal summer temps which allowed a full canopy to develop before more consistent heat arrived in August. Said heat caused cluster weight loss, further intensifying color and tannin. Overall quality and character will come down to how picking timing fared if during the later heat pressure or if picked after the heat waves.
Cabernet Sauvignon represents more than 50% of what is grown in Paso Robles and had the highest amount of yield loss due to drought conditions and the heat waves. Most growers and winemakers report an overall 30% +/- loss in yield. Later season reds fared better than other varietals due to the timing of bloom. However, rather than just being based on variety, it comes down to farming style. Larger canopies and those that incorporated shade cloth fared better. Which is something to consider as extended heat events continue to occur near harvest. This will ultimately help retain color and reduce dehydration.