California Drought Effects on 2014 Vintage

It's not breaking news that California is suffering from a severe drought. The worst one in many years. There is always a concern for the vineyards there when mother nature takes over.

Most vineyards are irrigated and use water to help grow the plants. Many have reservoirs so they are able to provide as much water as needed to the vines. However, when in a severe drought, this water supply runs low, if not dry.

After talking with a winemaker from Chiles Valley, Jim Fresquez of Rustridge Ranch & Winery, he explained to me that many of the "big boys" are investing upwards of $30k to drill 200 feet into the ground to get to more water. This is harmful to the little guys as 1) they can't afford to drill down another 200 feet and 2) the big vineyards are taking all the water supply, leaving the little guys high and dry (literally).

Also in the conversation with Jim, he brought up that he dry farms. This is the Old World way of farming where no water is used except in the event of frost. Having this severe drought may shock his plants some since they are used to the regular weather patterns of rain but his vines will be able to survive. 

Dry Farming at Rustridge in Chiles Valley - photo courtesy of

Dry Farming at Rustridge in Chiles Valley - photo courtesy of

Jim explained that his current reservoirs are bone dry and will be pumping from the stream any chance he gets when it does rain. Having no water in his reservoirs will only become an issue if there is a late frost this growing season. Fingers crossed for him!

The lack of rain will also concentrate the fruit in the grapes that do make it to harvest, producing an intense wine!

So we will have to see how the 2014 vintage will be affected by this drought, although those who dry farm may have the upper hand.