While our friends in the Mid-west and on the East Coast are being pounded by winter storms, we over here in California are parched. We may all dream of endless sunny days outside, but the reality is we need water to survive and right now, all we want is rain on the fields and snow in the mountains. While it is clear that our neighbors working dairy farms in the Sonoma Valley will be hit hard by this drought, the effects of the water shortage on this year’s grapes is a little less predictable.
According to the Sonoma County Water Agency, the Sonoma region is the driest it has been in 120 years. While it is still a bit soon to tell what the effects of this drought will be on the vineyards since Mother Nature might still bring us some rain in the coming months, the central valley is clearly being hit hard by the lack of water resources. The consensus among grape growers in Sonoma County is that if we don’t get a significant downpour of rain before bud break, normally some time in May, the vines are going to be hurting.
While the vines need water to grow fruit and leaves to protect the fruit, too much water, especially close to harvest time can be a problem since it can cause mold to grow on the grapes. Many vintners across Europe and California encourage dry-farming, a practice of growing grapes using natural rainfall only and no crop irrigation. The fact is that less water leads to greater concentration of sugar in the grapes, making for sweeter and more flavorful fruit.
Nonetheless, there is certainly an air of concern for farmers and growers across California since we have never had such a long dry spell. We encourage water conservation for our California friends out there and are prescribing daily rain dances through April. It may look grim, but we at Idle have not given up hope that 2014 will be a fruitful harvest season. So if you want do indulge in your favorite California cheese and a nice glass of Idle Cellars next year, put on your dancing shoes, and help us bring the rain!
If you’re interested in learning more about the drought effects on California wine country here are a few good articles:
http://www.winesandvines.com/template.cfm?section=news&content=126940 – water shortage in Central Coast
http://napavalleyregister.com/news/local/usda-director-sees-drought-effects-on-carneros-vineyard/article_505bafbc-8497-11e3-9a43-0019bb2963f4.html – USDA assesses water shortage in napa
http://www.wine-searcher.com/m/2014/01/california-wine-threatened-by-drought-crisis – water shortage on vineyards
http://www.redorbit.com/news/science/1112681971/drought-wine-082712/ – positive effects of low rainfall on vines
http://www.winespectator.com/drvinny/show/id/40451 – dry farming