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Bill Dyer
March 25, 2014 | Bill Dyer

Drought update

How is the drought in California affecting our vineyard? Right now the vines are still dormant, so they are not requiring any moisture. But the buds are swelling, making us hasten to finish pruning, and in a matter of the vines will leaf out. Then they will certainly require sufficient ground moisture to rapidly grow their shoots to about 1 meter in length in 7 or 8 weeks—will they have enough water?

Back in January our situation looked quite bleak. We had received less than 2 inches of rain during the season to that point. The hills were brown. The cover crops was stunted in some areas, and even none existent in others, where seeds had failed to germinate. It seemed like Napa Valley was in dire straits (note that when we registered our LLC with the State of California it was as Dyer Straights Wine Company LLC—an attempt at humor with the bureaucracy, and perhaps a hope that Mark Knofler would like a case occasionally—Mark where are you? But we were not anticipating such extreme drought.

But in the first week of February the skies opened and we received 9” of rain. Suddenly we could hear the roar of Diamond Creek (the stream between our vineyard and the famous Diamond Creek Winery). Another 5 inches came our way late in the month. Everyone in Napa Valley was buzzing about how quickly the hills became green again, and remarked about the mustard plants blooming afterall. We are still only about 40% of normal rainfall, but what we received was well timed, filling the soil profile just weeks before budbreak

For sure the State of California as a whole is in (OK) dire straits with the drought. The large reservoirs in The State Water Project average around a third full, and the snow pack in the Sierra is less than 30% of normal. We are hearing that farmers in the Central Valley may only get water allocations for orchards and vineyards (to ensure survival of these permanent crops) but row crops will not be supported—so we may all be in dire straits when it comes to food prices in the coming year. But here in Napa Valley, and throughout the North Coast we are cautiously optimistic. We will need to adopt drought strategies (more about that later) but every year has its own challenge. After all, its never “money for nothing” and the chicks aren’t exactly free.


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