Thoughts on the Wettest of Vintages
The vineyards are flooding. Southern California is currently experiencing what the forecasters are calling “the largest weather event in the last six years.” (Let’s just forget about “Stormageddon” two years ago – too bad they used that one up already). Some of the vineyards in the Santa Maria Valley are currently under water. Many people have been asking me, what does this mean for the grapes? Is all this rain a good thing or a bad thing?
My stock answer is that in February, what is a good thing for the state’s water system is a good thing for all of California agriculture. After six years of drought, the reservoirs and aquifers are in serious need of replenishment, and the soil could use a good soaking, too. Notwithstanding erosion in the vineyards (bad), the vines themselves are all tucked up inside their blankies and asleep for the winter months (good). All this raining and pouring means very little to the old man who’s snoring. Furthermore, it helps cleanse the vineyards of salt, which tends to build up over the dry years.
Rain (and other forms of severe weather) can certainly be bad at other times of year. Once the vines reawaken from their slumber, they are far more susceptible to damage, especially during bud break and flowering. Once the buds emerge, the crop is instantly vulnerable to frost – which can really stunt a vineyard’s growth. Rain or hail can also wreak havoc on a vine’s delicate flowers, and can destroy an entire crop depending on timing or severity. This happens far more often in France than it does here, but we are not out of the woods this year by any means.
For now we will relish every drop that falls from the sky. Pop a cork, pour some Lumen into your glass, and listen to the rain drum against the roof. When it rains, it pours!
– Will Henry