December was cold here, as were the first two weeks in January. Kazaam! Summer arrived in mid Jan, and we averaged 85 degrees off our back deck into the first week of February. Those 2 weeks were without doubt the nicest, mildest 2 weeks we have ever had in any new year's first month. Then, Kazaam! Winter returned with a vengeance, days were cold, but nites were frigid. For the next 6 weeks we had ice in the bottom valley vineyard until the sun's rays melted it, usually about 9 a.m. Yes, the warm summer weather was a nice respite to the bone chilling cold, but as the saying goes, " A good deed never goes unpunished".
We had to wait awhile until the freeze stopped, but then when we finally got around to pruning in late March, the first signs of the "summer in winter" became evident. Young vines, particularly those planted last year, or grafted vines from last year, came up "lame". Specifically, the small, delicate vines were evidentally influenced by January's warmth to begin the motions of preparing for budding out. With the 6 weeks of frost and ice that followed, all those young, susceptible vines got hammered by the night time freezes. Most of those vines grafted died back to the rootstock. The one year old new transplants just froze thru and thru. The warm spell in winter was lovely, but when one owns a vineyard, that kind of climatic behaviour never comes without consequences.
I had actually guessed we would have either a delayed bud break or a delayed harvest. Apparently it is neither, but rather just a rampant killing of young, tender vines and grafts. Our hillside/mountainside vineyard was spared the insult, due to an 18 degree temperature differential from hilltop to valley. We have replanted where vines died and regrafted where grafts died. In some cases, only half or more of the grafts were freeze killed. Those we salvaged by just pruning back to green wood. All in all, the spectacular late January weather was welcomed by most everyone in the Paso Robles area. The resultant damage to low lying vineyards, however, was not. Established vines did fine in our valley areas, but the younger ones...they will just have to try again.