While this year’s epic rainstorms have wiped out crops and damaged property for some farmers, Northern California grape growers are optimistic the wet weather will yield a banner year for them after several years of drought conditions.
We’re just over three months into 2023, and here in northern California, that’s been three months of seemingly nonstop heavy rainstorms. (KGO meteorologist Drew Tuma cautions we may still see two more big ones.) And the storms have caused plenty of hardship for some farmers, but the agricultural landscape at large may really benefit from all that rain. Some parts of the state are likely to see one heck of a super bloom this spring, and a new report from KPIX says that Northern California wine grape growers are hopeful for a bumper crop of extra-delicious fruit thanks to the rain.
"You know, in 2017 we had something very similar," Napa County’s William Harrison Vineyards & Winery general manager Rod Santos told KPIX. "We had a very wet winter after five years of drought."
Much of wine country had experienced “severe drought” conditions for the last several years in a row, so the rainstorms, for them, are welcome. Vintners and wine grape growers say the last three annual seasons have been short and dry, but they’re optimistic that the 2023 crop will produce both quantity and quality of grapes that they haven’t seen in years.
"I think what it does is it relaxes the vines," Santos added. "They know they're not going to be as stressed looking for water. So they'll tend to give us more fruit, as you expect. More water equals more juice. But also, if it doesn't get too hot, they tend to give us a little juicier flavors and a little easier to drink wine. It's farming. At the end of the day, the wine business is all about the farm.”
The bigger-picture issue here is whether the wet winter, and one of the deepest Sierra Nevada snowpacks ever recorded, will eventually benefit us with fewer, less severe wildfires. Recall that the 2020 wildfires ruined a ton of grapes with smoke taint.
There’s a school of thought that says more moisture will inhibit wildfires, as the Chronicle explains. But there’s also a school of thought that says those acres of lush green grass will dry out over the summer, and paradoxically increase the wildfire risk. Plus wind is also a huge factor in the spread of wildfires, and you don’t need us to remind you that 2023 has seen exceptionally heavy winds thus far.
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Image: Trent Erwin via Unsplash