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Northwest Wine Grape Scientists, Growers, Study Weather Extremes

Washington State University
Thomas Henick-Kling, right, is the head of the Washington State University's viticulture and enology program. He says more-precise grape growing techniques will be required to continue producing high quality wines with coming climate change.

Wine scientists and grape growers will converge in the Tri-Cities, Washington, next week to talk about how to produce high-quality wine when the climate is getting more extreme.

Like all other varietals, Grenache grapes really don’t like extreme heat. And last year, there were 17 record-high days east of the Cascades. The bulk of them fell early -- in April.

That challenged growers in a new way.

“Different grape varieties respond very differently to water and heat stress. And that’s something we’re learning more about right now,” said Thomas Henick-Kling, director of the wine and viticulture program at Washington State University.

In the spring, the grape leaves are tender and tiny fruit is swelling. That hot weather can slow down growth and development by stressing the plants. To avoid that, growers have to kick-in the water up to a day before heat hits.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.