Vino In My Dino

Note from Home: Water Matters

June 2, 2021 10:35

Note from Home: Water Matters

I have been back at my office at the winery now for two months. In those two months I have waited and watched as our Mother Clone Zinfandel vines began their journey toward vintage 2021. It will be our 94th year of bringing in grapes and the upcoming crop is now in full swing.

Water matters and, as farmers, we are water dependent. Since grapevines are what we farm, we rely on the annual rainfall to provide most of what is needed to get from point A-the beginning of growing season to point B-harvest. Last year, besides COVID, the lock down, and the late summer fires we went through here, one bit of information slipped the news headlines: our first year of drought had already occurred.

Last October, as the 2019/20 rain season ended and the next one began, I checked in with the predictions on what type of winter to expect. Was it going to be an El Nino or La Nina year? Meaning with the first choice we’d get a normal amount of rain or one with very little. La Nina graced us with her presence. When you total the combined rainfall between the last two years it equaled one year of average rainfall-32 inches, split between the two.

Cabernet vineyard

The lifecycle of our vineyards depends on drip irrigation to help the vines along as spring turns into summer and will be especially important this year. Measures are taken to determine we aren’t using too much of this precious resource-and in fact the vineyards used to be watered by overhead irrigation and cast a much wider swath (and used a larger amount of water) than we do now with the system close to the ground and emitting directly into the soil.

Water cycles and climate change.

Since many of you have been reading my posts for a while (much appreciated by the way) you’ll remember I follow the weather cycles. We have had several droughts and several rain-filled cycles throughout the years. In our time here we have seen two five year droughts along with the shorter two and three year cycles. We have also seen amazing rainfall well above average (remember 2017?, 1982?). The quality of some of those vintages are remembered with great reverence, like 1976 and 2015 chief among them as well as others with perfect conditions like 1978 and 2018. The climate has changed and will continue to do so. Preparation for the future is key. Finding which varieties are most drought tolerant or which is the best technology to help conserve water will pave the way for future re-plants.

We continue along the growing season with these incumbent thoughts: how warm is the summer going to be? How many times should the vineyard be watered? What about the vines-will they tolerate another year and what will production look like? These are all farmer’s concerns as we head toward what we hope is a trouble free vintage.

Conserving water, which in my opinion should be practiced at all times and in as many ways as possible whether a farmer or me in my home, is so important all around California and beyond. Our county has asked us to reduce our water usage by 20%. I know there are farmers up and down the state making difficult decisions. Not just grapes but all the other types of farming from almonds to cows. Whether we admit it or not, we are in this together.

Here is the report from the state of California for full on weather geekery and charts:

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