California set for bumper 2018 vintage after heavy rainfalls and floods
California is set to enjoy one of its largest ever vintages in 2018 on the back of what has been two months of heavy rains which may have lead to widespread flooding but have been good news for vineyards and producers and the health of their vines.
Californian wine growers usually benefit from rain falls during the winter when the vines are dormant, but this year the conditions have been more unusual than normal.
“Our expectation is that you’re going to have a bigger crop this year and also it’s going to have an effect on the following year as well,” Kevin Sass, winemaker at Halter Ranch in western Paso Robles told Wine-Searcher.
“There’s some nitrogen uptake that will have more of an effect on next year’s crop as well.”
Canrneros in Napa Valley had no rain from June to September 2016, but since October received more than 27 inches, more than double the amount recorded the previous year. The deluge has not only resolved the water shortage issue for farmers, such as a build up of salts in dried up soils, so vines that have spent the past few years under stress are going to benefit from a burst of nutrients.
Sass said that while irrigation only provides water to a certain percentage of the vine’s roots, where there isn’t a surplus of nutrients, the heavy rainfall will bring in goodness from throughout the vineyard.
That said some regions of California are still officially in drought including the east side of Paso Robles which has had to endure some of California’s most draconian water restrictions. But it has had more than 14 inches of rain, already more than it gets in an average year so is well set for the year ahead.
But the drought was so prolonged and severe that it is still classified as being in Extreme Drought by the USDA – though not as severe as the Exceptional Drought classification that much of the state was suffering from as recently as December.
Now the latest concern for grape growers is when the rain will stop.
“For grapes, the total water amount isn’t’ as important as when the last date that it stops raining,” said Napa Valley Grapegrowers president Garrett Buckland.
“If it stops raining on March 1, we’re going to have a normal season. If it stops raining in June we’re going to have to do some things differently to manage some of the pitfalls of that. Too much moisture means we want to keep our cover crop around to mop up some residual moisture.”