Mark Aselstine
 
March 5, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

The California Drought and It's Affect on The Wine Industry

Despite all the stories about inclement weather in the Midwest and on the East Coast of late, California is in the middle of perhaps it's worst drought over the past thirty years.  As a kid I remember rocks ending up in front of a number of houses on our street, as well as the huge wild fires that seemed to increasingly spring up every fall in the hills outside of Los Angeles and San Diego....unfortunately this drought is suppose to much worse than that.

The saving grace so many years ago was that the Sierra Foothills and the Bay Area still were receiivng rain and snowfall roughly equivalent to their normal amounts.  Now, depending on who you ask, snow packs in the Sierra's are 25-50% of their average and there are serious issues with both rian water run off (or the lack thereof) as well as ground water amounts.

I'm starting to see farmers and vintners take a more serious look at how this may affect the wine industry both during this growing season, but also if something like this drought were to continue to unfold over the next few years.

In Lake County, they're talking about improving effeciency and stopping as much water loss as possible.  Healdburg, in many ways the home to the Russian River Valley has imposed a mandatory 20% cut on residents while the state is talking about telling farmers in the region that they simply cannot take any surface water at all this year.

Of course, for our purposes here: what's the likely affect on the wine industry, especially those high end wineries in the Russian River and those up and coming names in Lake County?

In some ways, it's a bit early to tell.  Spring will need to be wet to help, but very little water is typically used in grape cultivation during winter months as it is.  A hot, hot summer and little water won't be a good omen for either area though.  The concern is that a lack of winter rainfall leads to early bud break which, if followed by a severe frost (without ground water to help prevent it) could decimate crops across the region.

Of course, like anything, a couple of good rain storms and we'll all forget any of this was even being talked about.

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