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Monday, January 23, 2017

California Rains & the Vineyards

You've likely heard that most of California is experiencing a very wet winter so far. Lots of rain filling the reservoirs, lots of snow in the mountains to top off those lakes later in the spring. All seems well. Maybe you've also seen pictures of flooded vineyards and wonder what affect that has on the vines and your wine for next year.

Flooded vineyards in Sonoma County's Russian River Valley
A fairly common sight this winter
photo from AP

The good news is the vines are dormant and can stand being under water for s few weeks at a time with no damage to the vines.

The main work going on in the vineyards in the December to February time frame is the pruning of the vines to get ready for the spring bud break and new growth. Pruning is done essentially to maintain fruit quality.
Pruning in Dry Creek Valley between storms
photo from

The wet weather has made it difficult or impossible to do pruning. At best conditions are muddy to slippery. Whenever there's a break in the weather the crews are out there pruning. If the nearly constant rains continue into February then growers will be racing against the clock. Depending on grape variety, location, soil, and the weather vineyards can begin bud break from late February until early April in Sonoma County.

During the drought years we had early bud break, but that shouldn't be a problem this year. Even if we have a dry, warm February many vineyards will still have wet feet delaying bud break.

It's farming so there are always issues with mother nature. Currently, it's worry about getting the pruning done in a timely fashion.