The Zonda or “witches wind” sometimes called the Huayrapuca and Viento Zonda is a wind that travels to parts of Western Argentina on the Eastern slope of the Andes, striking the wine regions of La Rioja, San Juan and Mendoza.
The humid air coming off of the Pacific Ocean moves over the high Andes Mountains in Chili and then rushes down into these areas wreaking havoc. Due to the humidity, it assists in creating snow over the winter months, thereby affording additional water to the South American Vineyards.
The Zonda has a tendency to drive people crazy. First, it has a strange whistling wind that is very eerie, next, it causes temperatures to rise as much as 50 degrees Fahrenheit and then frequently causes freezing temperatures to follow. It also travels in speeds from 25 miles an hour up to 120 mph.
Tremendous frost damage and raging wind can severely damage vineyards due to this phenomenon, something we in Arizona are very accustomed to. Usually occurring between May and November, the Zonda can last as little as an hour and as long as 12.
So beware, it you hear a whistling wind tonight, the Zonda may be coming for you.
Sue Schurgin is the manager of Sedona Wine and Beer Tours. She is studying for her CSW and sommelier certifications.