California Vintners Praying for Rain
California’s on-going drought has yet to materially affect the state’s winegrape growers, but that doesn’t mean they’re not looking to the heavens, praying some of that wet stuff starts falling.
Last year was dubbed the driest year ever in California history, and the heavenly spigot has stayed off so far in 2014, prompting government officials to ask the public for voluntary water cutbacks and Gov. Jerry Brown to issue a drought emergency declaration. As if that weren’t enough, the two previous years were dry as well, though not to the same degree.
The persistent drought is caused by a high-pressure system parked off the coast of the Pacific Northwest, shunting storm systems north to Alaska and Canada, which have seen an unusually wet winter. Though in the near term forecasters don’t see much relief in sight, the longer term outlook may contain a ray of hope. Some computer models are predicting the return of an El Nino weather pattern, which tends to send storms hurtling towards California, perhaps as early as March.
And if the state’s vintners can squeak by the current drought conditions, there is the tiniest glint of a silver lining. Later and less irrigation results in stressed out grapevines, which in turn produce more intensely flavorful grapes. It may be small consolation, but consolation nonetheless.