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Thursday, January 23, 2014

The California drought and grape growing

Calendar year 2013 and into early 2014 is a record drought in California. Voluntary and mandatory water rationing is already in effect in January, in what should be the rainiest month of the year.

How might this affect the 2014 wine grape season?

First, many are worried about frost control. When the tender young shoots come out in early spring they are susceptible to frost damage. Sprinklers are often used to coat the vines with water to prevent freezing. The warm, dry winter may mean an early bud break and a longer than normal frost season.

Once the frost season is past many vineyards require water for their vines. Cutting the crop size will mean they can get by on less water. This will hurt growers economically and eventually cost consumers if the crop size is cut either by frost or on purpose because of short water supply.

Various wine associations and county water departments are having discussions on how to proceed this year.

Unless we have some kind of rain "miracle" in the spring it would appear we are in for a short grape crop in 2014. Luckily, this follows two years of large crops.

California grows a lot more than wine grapes, of course. Expect to see higher prices and short supply with many fruits and vegetables this year if things stay dry.  It's mostly conjecture at this point so there's no need to get too worked up -- unless you grow wine grapes for a living.

Article in the Press Democrat:  Worried vineyard owners